Rooney ready for Real test
Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney cannot wait for Tuesday night’s game between "probably the two biggest clubs in the world".
"It hasn’t been hard not thinking about Tuesday," said Rooney. "Norwich was a massive game for us and we wanted to extend the gap at the top of the league. The manager put a lot of experienced players out and made us aware it was more important."
Shinji Kagawa’s hat-trick, the first by an Asian player in the Premier League, and Rooney’s last-minute piledriver, ensured there were no unexpected slips. So now United can train their thoughts on Cristiano Ronaldo and company, who stand in the way of a quarter-final berth.
"It is going to be a special night," said Rooney. "It is probably the two biggest clubs in the world and something we are all looking forward to."
Ferguson certainly is. And judging by his team selection yesterday had decided to remove Kagawa from his Madrid starting line-up. Whether the Japan midfielder’s outstanding contribution has changed his mind is open to question.
However, after a difficult few months when he has struggled to regain the form he showed prior to suffering a knee injury in October, Kagawa has underlined why Ferguson bought him from Borussia Dortmund in the summer.
"Shinji was fantastic," said Rooney. "He keeps putting himself in positions where he can get a shot at goal or play someone in. He is great with his runs too. If you can pick him out he is cruel with his finishes. Goals-wise it was his best performance but he has played other games well as well without scoring."
That Kagawa responded to a question of how his hat-trick will go down in Japan by saying "it will probably be huge news in Japan but in Japan they are looking forward to the Real game" merely shows what expectation surrounds that eagerly-anticipated duel between Ferguson and Jose Mourinho.
Real’s use of Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium for their pre-match training session tomorrow merely adds another twist in a tie filled with them. Yet the sense remains that Ferguson is confident. "I felt we looked very comfortable (in the first leg) and gave a good account of ourselves," he said.
"We could have scored five or six goals. Robin van Persie missed two great opportunities and their goalkeeper made a couple of good saves. And although we expected Madrid to have a lot of possession there was nothing that worried me unduly so perhaps we should have won the game."
Much may depend upon whether Phil Jones recovers from the ankle injury that kept him out of yesterday’s game because without him, Ferguson does not have an obvious alternative to screen his defense. It might be a job for Ryan Giggs, hence his omission from the squad to face Norwich, denying the Welshman his 1,000th senior appearance.
Neither Tom Cleverley nor Anderson seem disciplined enough defensively, which does create something of a headache. However, Ferguson is acutely aware that, after losing both the 2009 and 2011 finals, victory would represent a significant milestone for his reshaped team.
"To beat Real Madrid on our own ground would be a great step forward for this particular team," said Ferguson."It would give us a chance of going all the way in this tournament."