Fergie hopes for Rooney ‘burst’

Rooney has still only scored six times this season, although his

ratio has improved since his first goal from open play, at West

Brom on New Year’s Day. However, given his magnificent overhead

kick at Old Trafford has been labelled by some as the best goal

ever at the stadium, Rooney’s confidence is clearly going to be

soaring. And, with a return to Champions League action in Marseille

following immediately after tomorrow’s FA Cup clash with non-league

Crawley, Ferguson is expecting big things from the 25-year-old. “Up

until last season Wayne used to go on these scoring bursts,” he

reflected. “He used to do it in five or six games in a row and then

go missing in terms of goals for a few games and then come back

again. “I would be quite happy for him to go on a burst now because

we have some really important games coming up.” That list of

fixtures includes visits to Wigan and Liverpool, which will be

split by a trip to Chelsea should Carlo Ancelotti’s men fail

against Everton at Stamford Bridge. It is one of the reasons why

Ferguson is giving such careful consideration to his line-up on

Saturday, with Rooney highly unlikely to start. Instead, Javier

Hernandez is expected to get another chance to further his

education after scoring the winner at Southampton in the previous

round. The Mexican has enjoyed a brilliant first season at United,

hitting the net on 11 occasions. But Ferguson concedes Hernandez is

a better substitute at present as he gets used to the sheer pace of

the English game. “That is possibly true at this moment in time,”

said Ferguson. “Javier’s training performances have improved

tremendously in the last couple of months. His work-rate and

practice ethic have been very good. “He comes in early and stays

behind. He has done very well in that sense and is improving all

the time. “He is a great impact player.” The comparison with Ole

Gunnar Solskjaer is obvious and not one Ferguson refrains from. “I

did the same with Solskjaer,” he said. “When I was picking teams in

really important games I always tended to dismiss Ole simply

because as an impact player from the bench there was nobody better.

“Sometimes you have to choose your team that way particularly in

difficult games. If you know it’s going to be tight, being able to

bring an impact player on can make a difference.” Solskjaer was

also wedded to the traditions of United, which explained why he

never agitated for a move despite being overlooked as often as he

was. The reward came with that never-to-be-forgotten Champions

League final winner against Bayern Munich in 1999. Hernandez can

only dream of such glory at present, but alongside Rooney, 20-goal

Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen, whose groin strain suffered in

training on Monday is not as serious as had been feared, Ferguson

feels he has similar striking strength to those days. “It’s not

easy to choose,” admitted the Scot. “But it’s the type of problem I

had in ’99 with Cole, Yorke, Sheringham and Solskjaer. “It’s

exactly the same when you are trying to decide when players need a

rest or when they should be left out. “Those four were different

class. Hernandez is still young and learning all the time but

having him on the bench is fantastic back-up. Michael Owen is the

same. “The situation is the same, it’s just a different type of

player.” Ferguson has pledged to play a similar strength side to

the one he used at Southampton, which points towards the

introduction of Gabriel Obertan and Bebe. Rio Ferdinand and Jonny

Evans have been ruled out through injury, whilst Park Ji-sung is

going to be sidelined until March thanks to a hamstring problem. It

was anticipated Owen’s season was in jeopardy. Now it transpires he

could be fit to face Marseille, even if he will play no part

tomorrow. “Michael picked up a little knock in training this week,

which was disappointing because I was keen to play him tomorrow,”

said Ferguson. “We could risk him but there’s no point. He should

be okay for Wednesday.”