Wayne Rooney set for early return against West Ham

The England striker only came back from injury in an under 21 match against Middlesbrough on Monday night

Wayne Rooney set for early return against West Ham
Wayne Rooney appeared for United's under 21s side against Middlesbrough on Monday (Reuters)

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney will make his return to the first team in Wednesday night’s FA Cup quarter-final replay against West Ham, according to the Telegraph newspaper.

Rooney hasn’t appeared for the first team since suffering a knee injury against Sunderland in February.

However, the forward will travel to the Boleyn Ground with the rest of Louis van Gaal’s squad for the match, with the view to making an appearance from the bench.

Timely boost for Van Gaal

The news of Rooney’s return is likely to please manager van Gaal, who deemed neither of Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial worthy of playing as a striker for the whole match last time out against Tottenham Hotspur. Bizarrely, the Dutchman instead opted to select Ashley Young in a centre-forward role.

Rooney’s involvement in this game, albeit likely to come from the bench, will boost United’s chances of pursuing an FA Cup victory – their only remaining chance of silverware this season.

Rooney unremarkable but unhurt in reserve game

However, United’s captain notoriously takes longer than most to make a full recovery from injury, and that was evident in his showing for the club’s under-21 side against Middlesbrough on Monday.

Rooney has missed United's last 12 matches through injury
Rooney has missed United's last 12 matches through injury | Photo: Matthew Peters/Manchester United

Rooney played for 61 minutes but was clearly lacking match fitness, which may affect van Gaal’s decision making if he does decide to introduce his star striker into this game.

The Englishman has missed the last 14 matches for club and country – the longest injury absence of his career – and so it is unlikely that he will make an instant impact when returning from his prolonged absence.

Fitness must be proven to earn England place

Despite that, Rooney will surely be in a determined mood to make an impact for United, with only six Premier League games remaining before the end of the season.

Subject to the result of Wednesday’s match, Rooney might have a couple more FA Cup matches to test himself in as well, but England’s record scorer will be hoping to prove his form to national boss Roy Hodgson before the end of the season.

As the national’s team captain, Rooney is likely to be in the England squad for this summer’s European Championship, but his place in the first XI is not so assured. The United striker will need to hit top form before the end of the campaign to beat the likes of Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy to a starting role, whilst his managers van Gaal and Hodgson will be hoping he does exactly that.