Rooney return crucial boost for Ferguson's misfiring strike force
Wayne Rooney's much-anticipated return against Wigan on Saturday has taken on greater significance with Dimitar Berbatov's recent dip in form and Manchester United's increasing reliance on the goalscoring instincts of Javier Hernandez.
Alex Ferguson has almost become used to life without his talisman, having seen him miss 13 of United's opening 20 games. Rooney's last start was at Bolton at the end of September, and his only appearance since then was as a substitute four weeks ago.
But with Berbatov having gone off the boil in nine games without a goal, and Hernandez still settling into English football, the need for a fit and firing Rooney has become more pressing.
Rooney's comeback is likely to be from the bench, after recovering his fitness following a long-term ankle injury. He returned to training yesterday following intensive conditioning work at Nike's headquarters in the United States.
And Ferguson's strategy of sending Rooney away, to ensure the 25-year-old is up and running after the international break, appears to have paid off.
"Wayne's had a good week," said the Manchester United manager. "He's trained very hard and we've achieved what we wanted to achieve."
Rooney has endured a troubled campaign on and off the pitch, with lurid allegations preceding his divisive -- and public -- refusal to sign a new contract at the club.
Since committing himself to a new £180,000-a-week five-year deal, he has yet to figure in a red shirt in the wake of his latest injury setback.
The striker was left out of Fabio Capello's England squad to face France at Wembley tomorrow, so he can fine-tune his fitness away from the spotlight. (© Daily Telegraph, London)