Rooney returns as Man United aims to progress
Wayne Rooney returns to Manchester United's starting lineup for Wednesday's Champions League match against Rangers as his club aims to clinch the top spot in the group and a place in the next round.
Rangers held United to a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford in September when Rooney was in a post World Cup-slump, apparently due to uncertainty over his future and a niggling ankle problem.
Both issues seem to have been resolved with Rooney signing a new five-year contract during a five-week break for treatment, leaving United with few concerns ahead of the match.
A draw would clinch progress from the group stage but a win could guarantee first place and a favorable draw in the next round.
"We can go for a point and get through the group stage but we're not going there to get a point - we want to get three," midfielder Park Ji-sung said. "It's very important for us to win and then maybe the manager can rest some players and leave us with more options in other games."
With Premier League games against Arsenal and Chelsea scheduled for right after United's final group match against Valencia on Dec. 7, United's motivation for victory over Rangers is clear.
With a top spot already secured, the likes of Rooney could rest up in preparation for two games crucial to the team's chances of regaining the Premier League title.
Rooney made his comeback with a substitute appearance in Saturday's 2-0 win over Wigan and was mostly greeted warmly, although there were a few jeers from fans still angered by last month's quickly rescinded threat to quit.
United manager Alex Ferguson said Rooney will definitely start at Ibrox, where United won 1-0 on its previous visit seven years ago. Scotland captain Darren Fletcher was an unused substitute on that occasion and is likely to miss out again after sitting out training Tuesday.
His absence would spare him what is likely to be a hostile reception from a crowd responsive to the ancient rivalry between Scotland and England.
"The atmosphere is totally different compared to league games or other Champions League games," Park said. "It's more aggressive, the crowd are on their feet and there's also a heavy media focus on the match. It's just a natural feeling that this game is different."
Valencia hosts Turkey's Bursaspor in the other Group C match, knowing that it could also progress with a victory.
The Spanish side has seven points, three fewer than United - which is the only unbeaten team in the English Premier League and its Champions League group. Rangers has five points, while Bursaspor has no points and no goals.