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Rooney: Return of Rio and Vidic key to success

Wayne Rooney is predicting Manchester United will become even more prolific now their first choice central defensive partnership is back in action.

Thanks to Rooney's efforts, United have so far been able to make light of lengthy absences for Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic this season.

Already, the duo's recovery, from back and nerve problems respectively, has had an impact, with United keeping successive clean sheets for the first time since October.

And, ahead of tomorrow's Premier League encounter with Fulham, Rooney revealed the additional security means United can attack with greater conviction.

"It is always difficult when your defenders are injured," he said.


"You base your team around a solid back four and we have not had that all season.

"We have used different defenders in different games but thankfully now Rio and Nemanja are back.

"It gives us more stability in defence and that should mean more opportunities to score."

Rooney took his tally to goals 30 for the season with his midweek brace against AC Milan, so it is little wonder Alex Ferguson reacted with irritation yesterday when asked what he would do if the England striker got injured.

"I am not even thinking about that," Ferguson said. "Please, give me a break. Do you want to stick pins in us?"

Tempting fate or not, United tackle Fulham at Old Trafford knowing Rooney is pivotal to their hopes of Premier League and European glory.

A place in the last eight of the Champions League is already assured but it is a record 19th title -- and an unprecedented fourth in a row -- that is really driving Ferguson on.

"The record we are chasing is four titles in a row," he said. "That would be fantastic. It would be the 19th title. It would be the most in the league.

"It doesn't matter who you beat for that record, it's a record and we have got a chance."

Victory at Wolves last weekend may have been scrappy, but it contained exactly the right ingredients Ferguson looks for at this stage of the season.

He has been down this road so many times before and can sense glory again.

"That match was the best indicator of our chances," he said. "We have had these kind of games over the years, where players are prepared to battle against a very determined team.

"It is not the kind of game you like to watch or enjoy because it was such a battle.

"But the players stood up to it and wanted to win because of the importance of the game.

"That is the way it is going to be to the end of the season."

Meanwhile, Paul Konchesky is confident that Fulham's defence will be strong enough to shackle Rooney tomorrow.

The Red Devils lost 3-0 at Craven Cottage in December and Konchesky thinks Fulham can shut out Rooney and his Red Devils' team-mates again -- and even come away from Old Trafford with a result.

"We have Brede (Hangeland) and Aaron (Hughes) in defence. They are strong, quick, good in the air and read the game well, so they have great ability to stop him (Rooney)," said Konchesky.

"We've beaten United at home already, and we've always got a chance."

Konchesky made his comeback in Thursday's 3-1 defeat away to Juventus after a two-month lay-off with an ankle injury.

Roy Hodgson will have to decide whether to stick with Konchesky at left-back for the United game or to turn to Nicky Shorey, who was cup-tied for the Juve match.

Captain Danny Murphy, who was suspended for Thursday's defeat, faces a fitness test on a groin injury, while long-term absentees Andy Johnson and John Pantsil (both knee) remain sidelined.


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