Rooney pleased with form
Wayne Rooney is delighted that his unwavering self-belief has paid dividends on the pitch in recent weeks.
The striker’s clinically-taken goal against Celtic was his seventh in six games for club and country, and his recent superb displays have led many to claim he is in the form of his life.
But Wayne insists he always had confidence in his own ability, even when the goals weren’t flying in at the start of the season.
“I'm doing well at the minute so hopefully that will continue,” said the striker, who made his 200th Reds appearance against Celtic.
“But before I scored I didn't think I was playing that badly. I always believe in myself and I thought I was playing well, and now thankfully the goals are going in.”
United overwhelmed the Scottish champions in the second half of Tuesday’s Champions League clash, and Rooney believes the timing of Dimitar Berbatov’s second goal was key.
“We knew they had to come out after the break and open up to try to get something from the game, so to score so early in the second half was a big bonus for us," Rooney added on MUTV.
“We played some nice football and got the three points, so a good result at Celtic Park in two weeks will more or less see us through to the next stage.”
Evans negates Rio's absence
Amid the 'Battle of Britain' hype and a simmering atmosphere in Celtic's visit to Old Trafford on Tuesday evening, it speaks volumes that Rio Ferdinand's absence was barely noticed.
Jonny Evans' seamless integration into a rarely shuffled backline was one of the outstanding aspects of United's swaggering win. The 20-year-old went about his business with a stylish aplomb befitting of Ferdinand himself, and was delighted to play a part as United stormed to a 3-0 victory.
"The gaffer insists on good defending and the whole team plays a part in that," Evans told MUTV. "But sometimes there's a lot of attacking and not much defending to do!
"I thought we played some really good stuff and any team would have found it difficult with the attacking options we have. Some of our play was great and we probably should have scored more goals."
The Reds' victory cemented top spot in Group E, with qualification for the knockout phases now within touching distance. Should early progress be secured, Evans is hopeful that he will be afforded more run-outs as he endeavours to further his football education.
"We have seven points now, so hopefully if we get two or three more we'll be safe in the group," he said. "People say when you get to 10 points you're more or less through.
"We have so many good players that there's competition for places all over the park. For me it's harder to get in because we don't chop and change defenders. Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Wes Brown are great players, but hopefully I'll get more chances."
Possebon makes Reserves return
Rodrigo Possebon returns from injury in the Reserves' Manchester derby on Wednesday evening.
The Brazilian midfielder has been out of action since suffering a badly-gashed leg in September's Carling Cup win over Middlesbrough, but will line up against Manchester City at Ewen Fields.
Possebon is joined by Rafael, Manucho, Darron Gibson and goalkeeper Ben Foster in bringing first team experience to a strong Reserves side.
Foster presides over a defence comprising Rafael, Richard Eckerlsey, David Gray and Corry Evans, while Possebon and Gibson join Tom Cleverley, Sam Hewson and Danny Drinkwater in a fluid midfield.
Manucho will start as the Reds' lone striker, while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Warren Joyce have plumped for a bench featuring Ron-Robert Zieler, Jimmy Derbyshire, Magnus Eikrem, Matt James and Anton Bryan.
u guys know anything about him?
Papers: Strachan tips Reds
Wah... all the managers we faced say the same thing are they trying to make their head big?Strachan: United will win it
Gordon Strachan backed magical Manchester United to win the Champions League again. Strachan hailed United the best side he had ever faced after Celtic were blitzed. And the Bhoys boss called Wayne Rooney ‘unplayable’ as the Reds ran riot - with Dimitar Berbatov striking twice before Roo finished the job. Strachan said: “We’ve played a lot of good teams in the Champions League like AC Milan and Barcelona. But nobody as good as Manchester United were tonight. It will take some team to stop them from winning this again. They could defend this for the next couple of years.”
Neil Custis, The Sun
Elsewhere the papers split the praise between United’s front two from last night Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov. Coverage of Berbatov’s brace and recent form features heavily (Mirror, Mail, Sun), whilst other papers focus on Rooney’s remarkable streak that has seen him score in his last five games for the Reds (Express, Star, Independent, Times).
On a lighter note The Sun reports that Rooney’s team-mates are planning to give him a wig as a birthday present! Wayne turns 23 this Friday - look out for an exclusive interview with him in Red View, ManUtd.com's weekly e-newsletter.
Round up by Joshua Evans
It was an excellent result. A win at Celtic will quality liao. Rooney contunes his hot form. Hope it last real long but Tevez will be then warming the bench. He made Rooney's goal btw. Think Fergie will have some rotation to do to keep the strikers happy.
Reserves: City 0 United 3
United's Reserves romped to victory in a hard-fought derby against Manchester City, taking the spoils after goals from Tom Cleverley, Darron Gibson and Rodrigo Possebon.
City played the final half hour with 10 men as Shaleum Logan was sent off, and United took full advantage of the extra body. In truth, though, the Reds were well on top even before the Blues defender was dismissed.
In a frantic first half, it was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side who forged all the clear openings. The first of the match, after 13 minutes, led to the opening goal as Cleverley hammered home a 20-yard shot after being teed up by skipper David Gray.
Cleverley strode through on goal towards the end of the half, but was thwarted by a fine save from Kasper Schmeichel. Two minutes before the break, bombarding Brazilian Rafael saw his shot suffer a similar fate.
Although the Blues could have drawn level within two minutes of the restart, as Ben Mee planted a free header wide, the game was dead and buried after 56 minutes.
Richard Eckersley burst into the City area and got his body across Logan's path, and the inevitable coming-together saw Logan sent off and United handed a penalty, which Gibson stroked home.
Soon, United had a third. Manucho teed up Possebon on the edge of the area, and he drilled a low shot inside Schmeichel's left-hand post. The Brazilian deserved a goal, capping his return to action after suffering a seriously gashed leg on first team duty last month.
But for Schmeichel's heroics, United could have heaped further embarrassment on their struggling hosts in the latter stages. Twice Manucho burst through on goal, leaving the City defence trailing in his wake, but both times was denied a goal by superb one-handed stops.
The Angolan striker was unfortunate not to find the net after an impressive display, having toiled away gamefully all evening as a lone striker. At the other end of the field, England international goalkeeper Ben Foster was a virtual spectator until an injury-time stop from Paul Marshall.
United: Foster; Rafael, Gray, C Evans, Eckersley; Gibson, Drinkwater (Bryan 67), Possebon (Derbyshire 76), Cleverley (Eikrem 77), Hewson; Manucho.
Subs not used: Zieler, James.
A star is born
Against Everton Wayne Rooney could grab his 100th club goal - 17 of which came from his time at Goodison. Here, we track his path to Old Trafford...
Amid the pandemonium at Goodison Park, Clive Tyldsley bellowed: "Remember the name, Wayne Rooney." Moments earlier, the 16-year-old had announced himself to the football world by hammering a 30-yard injury-time winner against champions Arsenal.
Thirty-five miles down the East Lancs Road, knowing looks were exchanged. Master Rooney had surfaced on United's radar long before making a mug of David Seaman. He'd done the same to United's Schmeichel - Kasper Schmeichel, that is - at Littleton Road, against a United Under-9s side playing their first ever match.
“We hadn’t played any games before, the boys had just been training together,” recalls Paul McGuinness, now manager of United’s U18s. “We didn’t even have a goalkeeper, so Peter Schmeichel’s son Kasper played for us. He was the only kid we knew who played in goal! The Everton boys had been playing together for at least a year in a league beforehand, so they were used to playing games. You could tell, because they absolutely hammered us."
It wasn't just the scoreline (12-2) which stuck in the memory. All the talk was of a stunning goal from Rooney. “He scored a few (six to be exact), but there was one goal that stood out. It was basically the classic overhead kick, the perfect bicycle kick, which for a kid of eight or nine years old was really something special.”
“We were all wondering who this kid was,” recalls McGuinness. “It transpired that he was from a tough, boxing background, a sporting family and he was a diehard Everton fan. At that time you didn’t really get any kids crossing over to Manchester from Liverpool. We looked at it behind the scenes, but he was too fixated on Everton to contemplate leaving them.”
Keen to put a positive spin on the news that the new U9s had taken a double-digit hammering, McGuinness informed Sir Alex Ferguson about the 9-year-old talent that had done all the damage. “I remember coming back saying that we’d been beaten by 10 goals," he recalls. "You don’t generally want to advertise that fact to the manager - but I did mention that we’d seen a kid who had done very well."
Rooney continued his fast-track ascension through Everton’s ranks. The double hat-tricks and overhead kicks were harder to come by, but the competitive streak was even sharper.
“When we were playing for the U13s against Everton, me, Adam Eckersley and Mark Howard, who’s now left the club, played against him,” recalls United goalkeeper Tom Heaton.
“I think it was a 1-1 draw, and Mark and Wayne actually had an altercation which ended up with them both being sent off. That was pretty unheard of that level, usually it’s just a word to the managers asking if the offenders can be subbed off, but these were straight reds!”
Heaton would get several close-up glimpses of Rooney in action down the years, with one particular encounter at Altrincham’s Moss Lane in 2000 persuading United’s coaches that the Everton striker was realising his massive potential.
Tommy Martin, manager of United’s U15s, can vividly remember Everton’s number nine terrorising the Reds’ backline. “Overall we were too strong for them but he stood out on their side,” he smiles. “Wayne gave our defence a really tough time. After 10 or 15 minutes, you knew he was on the pitch because he was really upsetting our defenders. His pace always made him a handful.
“He was a winner back then – you could tell. He has changed in some respects, obviously, but even back then he was going back and tackling. He's always been in love with the game of football. For all the attention, fame and wealth it brings, I still see him as a kid in love with playing football.”
“I remember sitting with Jim Ryan watching him at Altrincham,” concurs Paul McGuinness. “We won the game 5-1, but I remember Jim saying ‘look at their number nine, he’s keeping at it and going all the time.’ He was running around after the ball and trying shots, and he really stood out in that game. We started following him closely from that point.”
One of United’s subsequent scouting missions, at Everton’s U19s clash with Bolton, yielded a breathtaking encapsulation of Rooney’s capacity for the incredible. Now the ripe old age of 15, he brought down a hoofed clearance from Bolton’s goalkeeper with his first touch and, still inside his own half, with his second lashed the ball back from whence it came. The helpless Trotters keeper could only watch as the ball sailed over his head, against the crossbar and back into his arms.
According to United’s chief recruitment officer Geoff Watson, however, the Reds’ keen interest wasn’t always fuelled by what they saw of Rooney in action – more Everton’s total assurance that they had a nailed-on player on their hands.
“He invariably scored a couple of goals, but sometimes you'd go and watch Wayne and he wouldn’t do an awful lot,” says Watson. “The important thing that struck me was that when you spoke to the Everton people they were always so confident that they had a star in the making. They were so convinced about Wayne's ability.
“It was obvious he was a special talent. So many people went to watch Wayne Rooney that it was easy to get an opinion about him, there was a big buzz about him. Everton knew what they'd got from an early age.
“Obviously we weren't always privilege to that – one thing you learn in this business is that the club always know better about their own player than anyone else. They see him every day, while scouts from other clubs only have 90 minutes during a match to judge him on.
“Scouts will tell you there were games they went to and he hardly did anything. Scouts can only report what they see – they can't dream. To be honest, I think Wayne was always waiting for the bigger stage.”
Progress couldn’t come quickly enough for the young Rooney. Having raced up through Everton’s youth ranks, he went on to star for the Toffees’ Reserves, while also playing an integral part in the U18s’ run to the 2002 FA Youth Cup final, scoring eight goals in as many games.
Just over five months after the young Blues had slipped to a two-legged defeat against Aston Villa, and still five days shy of his 17th birthday, Rooney acquired hero status at Goodison Park with his unbelievable maiden strike against Arsenal.
As the ball cannoned in off the crossbar at the Park End, some 200 miles away Sir Alex Ferguson was making his way to the Loftus Park dressing rooms, having watched United endure a frustrating 1-1 draw with Fulham.
As news filtered through of Arsenal’s defeat at Goodison, however, Sir Alex could reflect on the day with renewed positivity. Especially after discovering the identity of the scorer, a name with which he had long since been very familiar.
Reds' resurgence pleases Ole
OLE!United's Reserves have shown the perfect response to their heartbreaking early-October defeat to Wigan, according to manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The Reds succumbed to a smash-and-grab raid against the Latics, but bounced back with wins over Bolton and Oldham, before a swaggering 3-0 victory at league leaders Manchester City on Wednesday evening.
"Once in a while it’s good for everyone to get a defeat, just to remind you how much it hurts," Ole told MUTV. "They’ve responded really well to that with three wins, so that’s what we’ve asked of them – consistency.
"Of course we’re delighted. You go into local derbies like this and you never know what you’re going to get. We just asked the lads to trust the way they play and trust why they have the red shirt on and keep playing the way we’ve always coached them to do and it paid dividends."
United were already edging a feisty derby when City were reduced to 10 men. Shaleum Logan was red carded for the concession of a penalty which Darron Gibson converted, but Solskjaer felt the dismissal ruined the game.
"When we got the penalty and they went down to 10 men, that spoiled the game a little bit," he said. "After that the game was over, but up until then I thought they did exactly what we asked for. They defended well and worked for each other, and it was perhaps our best performance of the season."
Papers: Rooney eyes century
Roo plans Ever-TON
Hot-shot Wayne Rooney has a glittering goal in his sights – to score his 100th at former club Everton on Saturday. The Manchester United and England striker notched up club goal 99 against Celtic on Tuesday. Now he is on the brink of a double birthday celebration that would stick in the throats of the Goodison faithful. "It is always nice for any player to score 100 goals,” said Rooney, “But if I could do it at Everton, where I started, that would be really pleasing."
Bill Thornton, Daily Star
In fact, most of Thurday's newspapers run with the quotes from Rooney saying that he'd like to reach 100 club goals against Everton on Saturday. He's 7/2 to score the first goal with Betfred (manutd.com/bet).
The Daily Telegraph reports that United are interested in signing Lyon's powerful forward Karim Benzema, despite the fact that the Reds already have a wealth of attacking talent. Sport and France Football have both claimed in the last few days that Sir Alex Ferguson has met with Benzema's father.
Round up by Ben Hibbs
Voting in the Square Mile Sport Awards 2008 has started in an attempt to honour this year’s top sporting heroes and moments.
The Reds are involved in three of the six categories. After being snubbed in the Ballon d'Or nominations, Rio Ferdinand has been nominated as Sports Leader of the Year. Although he's not United's regular captain, he did lead the Reds out in Moscow last May.
United are up for the Sports Team of the Year accolade in competition with, among others, Team GB’s Beijing Olympians.
The Reds are also involved in Sporting Moment of the Year category. Naturally it's from the Champions League final, and the moment is (don’t smirk) John Terry’s penalty miss in Moscow.
The winners will be unveiled at a star-studded dinner on 27 November in London.
Match Pack: Everton
Goodison Park will stage a clash of two teams in contrasting form...
Form Guide: Everton currently lie 16th in the Barclays Premier League, just one point and two places above the relegation zone. Last Saturday they scored first but still lost 3-1 to Arsenal at the Emirates and their fans also had to endure the agony of a home derby defeat to Liverpool. In contrast United have won six out of six in all competitions and have been steadily climbing the table.
Ins and Outs: Reds' midfield trio Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick and Owen Hargreaves all remainsidelined; however both Rio Ferdinand (groin) and Patrice Evra (thigh) could be available after missing Tuesday’s victory over Celtic. For Everton, Tim Cahill misses the match through suspension and long-term injury absentee Lars Jacobsen remains unavailable. However David Moyes may be able to recall Joseph Yobo, Segundo Castillo and Victor Anichebe.
Star Man: Yakubu has been Everton’s main source of goals since his club record transfer from Middlesbrough to Merseyside in August 2007. The burly centre-forward has seen off competition from Andy Johnson (now at Fulham) and James Vaughan to establish himself as David Moyes’ first-choice front man. Generally deployed as a lone striker in a 4-5-1 formation, Yakubu is blessed with strength and a deceptive turn of pace.
Rivals Watch: Chelsea v Liverpool (Sun 13:30), West Ham v Arsenal (Sun 16:00).
Duo may return at Goodison
Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra could both be fit for the Reds' trip to Everton on Saturday, according to Sir Alex Ferguson.
Both were left out of the Champions League victory over Celtic as a precaution after picking up minor knocks.
Evra was still suffering with the tight hamstring sustained against West Brom on Saturday, while Ferdinand was sidelined with a groin strain.
John O'Shea and Jonny Evans stepped in ably at left-back and centre-half respectively, but Sir Alex is hopeful of having his first-choice defensive duo back for the lunchtime clash at Goodison Park.
"I think Evra will be okay and we'll see about Rio," the boss told MUTV. "He suffered a little groin strain in training on Monday and it wasn't worth risking him [against Celtic]."
Ronny in confident mood
Cristiano Ronaldo feels he would be a worthy winner of world football's top individual accolades for his performances this year.
The Ballon d'Or and Fifpro World Player of the Year awards are set to be dished out and, having plundered 42 goals last season as United claimed the Double, Ronaldo feels he has done enough to see off his competitors.
"Sincerely, yes, I'm confident," he told Gazetta dello Sport. "If you assess what I did over the course of the season, I think I did more than everyone. What else should I have done to win the Ballon d'Or and the Fifa award?"
Ronaldo has scored three goals in six starts this term, despite missing over a month of the season as he recovered from surgery on an ankle injury.
The winger revealed that he played through the pain barrier during the latter stages of last term, and Portugal's Euro 2008 campaign, but has no regrets at all.
"At times it was like having a knife in my ankle," he said. "I gritted my teeth. It was torture, also psychologically. I don't regret it. It was worth it."
Sir Alex pleased with team form
United’s forwards have been hogging the limelight of late, but Sir Alex Ferguson is pleased with the performances right throughout his team.
The Reds have scored 17 goals in the last six games, but just as impressively the defence has conceded just once in those matches.
“The team is playing well,” said Sir Alex. “We’re really coming together now.
“It’s always the same in football; the players who score the goals get all the attention. But if you look at the performance of Jonny Evans the other night, Gary Neville coming back in, John O’Shea who never lets you down, and Darren Fletcher and Anderson in midfield… they were the heart of the team against Celtic. That allows the forwards to get on with their job.”
Sir Alex must be thoroughly pleased with the way Dimitar Berbatov has settled in alongside Wayne Rooney. The pair have scored 10 goals in the last five games between them.
The Bulgarian’s arrival paved the way for Louis Saha’s exit from the club. Sir Alex wants to see the talented Frenchman, whose time at Old Trafford was heavily disrupted by injuries, to succeed at Everton – though perhaps not on Saturday.
“A lot of it [letting Louis go] depended on whether we got Berbatov,” added the Reds boss. “We felt that we were going to get him.
“With Louis, he just didn’t give us enough football. In those situations, which we’ve had in the past, players can leave here and continue their career elsewhere and do well. We hope that Louis goes on and does that with Everton.”
Tevez relishing competition
Carlos Tevez may have endured a frustrating spell on the sidelines of late, but the Argentine is philosophical as he pushes for regular starts.
The goalscoring form of fellow strikers Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov has relegated Tevez to the role of substitute since September's win over Bolton. But he is redoubling his efforts to force his way back into the Reds' starting line-up.
"I think it's great that there is competition," Tevez told MUTV. "It is up to me to be fit and ready for the manager to make the decision. I am very calm and relaxed.
"The only important thing is that I am ready when the team needs me. In my own head I have got that personal target to do better than last season."
Despite Tevez's immense talent and popularity with United supporters, the form of his attacking colleagues has made them difficult to oust - but he has only praise for the pair.
"I think Berbatov is a great player," he said. "Technically he is very good and also tactically aware. He provides the height we need and is good in the air. He plays down the middle and lot of his play takes place in the centre.
"I think Rooney has all the attributes to be the best player in the world. I have always thought he is a fantastic player but now he is scoring goals everyone is saying that. But I have always thought he is a top player."