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Fergie expects Rooney to eclipse Charlton

MANCHESTER United manager Alex Ferguson has tipped Wayne Rooney to eclipse Bobby Charlton as the club's all-time record scorer.

After having doubts over the Red Devils' future dispelled by Ferguson last term, and then signing a new five-year contract, Rooney has been a much more settled figure.

That was shown in the 25-year-old's scintillating early season form, when he bagged nine goals in seven games before injury halted his run in the middle of last month and forced him to spend two weeks on the sidelines.

However, the ex-Everton striker has now recovered. And after departing for England duty in Montenegro this week, Ferguson has again raised the prospect of the forward overtaking Charlton at the top of United's scoring charts.

Rooney is presently ninth on the list, with 156 goals -- 93 behind Charlton, who amassed an impressive 247 before his 17-year stint with the club ended in 1973.

Ferguson can see no reason why the gap cannot be bridged.

"I do (think he can eclipse that feat)," Ferguson said. "He is only 25, so he has at least another five years in him at the very top level.

"And if he looks after himself like Ryan Giggs has done, he could play well into his 30s.

"The opportunity is there and time is on his side. He's raced out of the blocks already this season and I hope he could get up to the 30 mark."

Ferguson will certainly be hoping nothing happens to Rooney in Podgorica, when England will look to gain the point required to reach next summer's European Championships.

Straight after the international break come two of the biggest games in United's season; Liverpool away, followed by Manchester City at home.

Previously, Ferguson has cheekily suggested Liverpool were United's true derby rivals.

Sheikh Mansour's £1bn investment in City has changed all that, though, with the plethora of stars working under the guidance of Roberto Mancini bringing an extra dimension to the Manchester fixture.

"All derbies are big now -- that is the nature of the landscape," Ferguson said.

"The impetus City now have -- a huge squad of players and the financial power -- actually changes the focus of the derby these days."