Rooney can complete redemption against Barcelona
The past year for Wayne Rooney has been defined by the loss of his goalscoring touch, injuries, contract wrangles and turmoil in his private life.
Even Manchester United's own fans jeered their star striker at one stage.
But on Saturday, on the biggest stage in club football, Rooney's redemption can be completed, by marking the end of a cheerless chapter in his young life by leading United to Champions League glory against Barcelona.
Goals at Wembley Stadium could also help Rooney upstage Barcelona forward Lionel Messi and re-establish himself as one of the finest attacking forces in world football.
Those comparisons with Messi have faded in the last 12 months since Rooney's woeful World Cup where he failed to find the net once for England despite having scored 34 times for United in the preceding season.
''Wayne can show his worth anyway regardless of what happened last summer at the World Cup or what happens tomorrow at Wembley,'' United defender Rio Ferdinand said Friday. ''We have 100 percent trust in all our players.''
The turning point in Rooney's troubled season came in spectacular fashion, with an overhead kick in February against Manchester City that took his meager goal tally to five.
A further 10 goals have come in the last three months and Ferdinand predicts that Rooney will rise to the occasion at Wembley and help the newly crowned English champions collect a fourth European title
''When we have needed Wayne to stand up and be counted he has always been there on most occasions,'' Ferdinand said. ''People talk about big occasions. I think of the (Manchester) City game (in February) when he scored one of the best goals you will see at Old Trafford.
''I don't need to go through the times and occasions he has done that.''
But had United ceded to Rooney's transfer request in October he would not even be featuring in Alex Ferguson's side on Saturday.
''Rooney staying was a big part of what we achieved this season,'' Ferdinand said. ''There was a sense of relief from the players, the fans, everybody. Wayne is one of the best three players in the world, so to have him on our team sheet is a bonus ... if he had left it would have been a very big hole to fill.''
Rooney had deemed that United's plans for the squad didn't meet his expectations. After days of public insubordination, however, Rooney changed his mind - helped by a new five-year contract worth a reported 250,000 pounds ($410,000) a week.
''I made a mistake,'' Rooney has since conceded. ''You know, when I look back at it now ... how wrong was I? I'm willing to admit that. I've apologized and ever since then I have wanted to try to prove myself again to the fans. I feel I am doing that now.''
There was a very public sign of the reconciliation during United's training session at Wembley on Friday when Rooney shook hands on the pitch with members of the Glazer family, who own the club.
And Rooney should be happy: he's just won the Premier League for the fourth time - giving United a record 19th title - and he is set to play in his third Champions League final in four years on Saturday.
Victory in Moscow against Chelsea in 2008 was followed by a humbling loss to Barcelona a year later when Rooney had little impact on a game where he was stranded on the left flank to give Cristiano Ronaldo the freedom to roam in front of goal.
''Wayne Rooney is more mature now than he was in 2009,'' Ferguson said.
With Ronaldo long gone, Rooney has formed a fruitful partnership with Javier Hernandez in the Mexico striker's first season with United.
''It's normal that the more you play together the more you get to know each other,'' said Hernandez, who has scored 19 goals since netting for United in the Community Shield victory over Chelsea here at Wembley last August.
Rob Harris can be reached at http://twitter.com/RobHarrisUK