Rooney returns with point to prove
Alex Ferguson is planning to restore Wayne Rooney to the Manchester United team for tonight's FA Cup third-round replay against West Ham United following the forward's recovery from a knee injury.
Rooney, who has missed United's last five games as a result of the injury sustained in training on Christmas Day, will return alongside Portuguese winger Nani, who has been declared fit after being sidelined since suffering a hamstring injury against Braga in November.
During Rooney's absence Robin van Persie has added another six goals to his tally, Javier Hernandez three and Danny Welbeck picked up man of the match honours against Liverpool.
Clearly then, Rooney cannot endure a sluggish return from injury, as has been the case on too many occasions for Ferguson's liking.
And for the entire United squad – with the exceptions of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Darren Fletcher and, from his time at Arsenal, Van Persie – there is the added incentive of a first FA Cup winners' medal at the end of this particular road to glory.
The positive fitness bulletins on Rooney and Nani have been tempered, however, by Ferguson confirming that Ashley Young will miss tonight's game and Sunday's trip to Tottenham with a knee injury sustained against Liverpool on Sunday.
Jonny Evans will miss out with a hamstring injury, but captain Nemanja Vidic could play, despite suffering a concussion at the weekend.
The Serbian defender appeared to have injured his knee when landing following a clash of heads with Liverpool's Andre Wisdom, but Ferguson insists that Vidic has not suffered another injury to his knee.
Vidic's central defensive partner Rio Ferdinand, meanwhile, has wished old mate Joe Cole good luck as he looks to rekindle past glories at West Ham.
Cole and Ferdinand used to be team-mates in a Hammers squad that also spawned Frank Lampard, Michael Carrick and Jermain Defoe.
All five went on to enjoy success elsewhere, while West Ham twice lost their top-flight status in 2003 and 2011.
Now Cole is looking to rebuild himself though, accepting Sam Allardyce's offer of a six-month loan period to escape the difficulties he was experiencing at Liverpool.
And though there will be no sentiment on show at Old Trafford this evening when Manchester United look to dump West Ham out of the FA Cup, Ferdinand is hopeful Cole will prove to be an inspirational signing.
"The era we had there will be part of West Ham's history forever now, with so many players who went on to play for England and win league titles with other clubs," said Ferdinand.
Though it is 12 years since Ferdinand left Upton Park, first for Leeds, then, a couple of seasons later to Manchester United for a then-British record £29.1m, his attachment to the London club remains strong.
"It is a club that is close to my heart, because I came through the ranks there."
(© Daily Telegraph, London)
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