Fergie hopes for Rooney ‘burst’
Sir Alex Ferguson is crossing his fingers Wayne Rooney’s stunner in the derby will trigger a scoring burst for the Manchester United striker.
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."