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United desperate to turn the tide

London: Wayne Rooney has briefly escaped Manchester United’s winter of discontent and has been sent to warmer climes to recover from a groin injury, manager David Moyes said on Friday.

Champions United are reeling after beginning the year with three successive defeats and will not be able to call on Rooney, or fellow striker Robin van Persie, as they host Swansea City in the Premier League on Saturday. “Wayne has been sent away on a sort of hot-weather break. His groin has not recovered yet,” Moyes told reporters at a news conference on Friday.

“We’ve sent a fitness coach with him and he is away with his family. So we’ve given him a bit of a break. I always hoped I would be able to do that at some point in the season, but his groin is not as good as we hoped at this point.”

Seventh-placed United, who were knocked out of the FA Cup at home by Swansea last weekend, hope to have Rooney back for the clash with Chelsea a week on Sunday, although Van Persie is further away from being fit.

“Hopefully we’ll get him fit for the Chelsea game and we’ll see how he is then,” Moyes said. “Robin is going to be a little while. We’ll do everything we can to get him back quickly.”

United have looked blunt without Rooney and Van Persie and Moyes goals need to start arriving from other areas. “We’ve played pretty well, we just need to be a bit more clinical in the final third,” he said.

“We’ve not been scoring enough recently.” The threat of a fourth consecutive defeat is looming large for United and Moyes. Still the beleaguered Scot feels things are on the verge of turning for his struggling side.

The two Cup defeats followed a stinging home reverse in the league against Tottenham Hotspur that left United seventh in the table and 11 points adrift of leaders Arsenal.

Yet Moyes, hand-picked by predecessor Alex Ferguson and given the security of a six-year contract, is not panicking. “I’ve been here before and done it before,” Moyes said.

“I just sense that it’s on the verge of turning, we’re about to get a bit better. You need a little bit of good fortune to go for you, and it looks as if we’re not getting enough of that at the moment. I can sense in the dressing-room that there’s an urge to fight our current position.”

United’s fans booed them off the pitch following their cup defeat by Swansea, but it was a different story at the Stadium of Light where they made an effort to rally behind Moyes’ cause, singing his name despite their team’s limp performance. Moyes described their support as “exceptional”, but is well aware that it is a results business and those in the boardroom as well as on the terraces will soon start demanding an upturn in fortunes.

“If you’re going to be in this job you’ve got to win, and the last few games I’ve not won,” he said.

“It’s part of football management. It’s never going to be an easy ride. To be the manager of Manchester United is a big challenge, whether it’s on the back of wins or defeats.”

Third-placed Chelsea can stake an early claim on the summit when they kickoff the action at Hull City on Saturday before second-place Manchester City, who crushed West Ham 6-0 in their League Cup semi-final first leg on Wednesday, travel to Newcastle United on Sunday.

Leaders Arsenal, who are two points clear of Chelsea and one ahead of City, visit Aston Villa on Monday. A 3-1 defeat by Villa in the opening match of the season spurred the doom-mongers, who had been prophesying a difficult campaign for Arsene Wenger’s team, into overdrive.

However, it preceded their transfer-record signing of Germany playmaker Mesut Ozil and eight wins from their next nine games propelled Arsenal to the top of the standings.

Liverpool travel to Stoke City on Sunday where the Merseysiders have never won a Premier League fixture.

Liverpool could be boosted by the return of striker Daniel Sturridge who scored nine league goals before suffering an ankle injury at the end of November.