Payback time for Rooney
Ferguson expects a 'good performance' from United striker on return to firing line
Having been spared an afternoon of verbal abuse at Goodison Park on Saturday, Wayne Rooney has been left in no doubt by Alex Ferguson that tonight's Champions League opener against Rangers is payback time.
Whether that is payback for Ferguson's 'compassion' or, more likely, time to make up for placing Manchester United in the eye of a storm is open to debate, but the manager insists he has no regrets over his decision to tackle Everton without his troubled talisman.
Rooney, who will pull on a United shirt for the first time tonight since recent allegations that he used prostitutes, appeared untroubled and light-hearted as he trained in front of the cameras at Carrington yesterday.
The absence of thousands of baiting supporters perhaps helped his mood, but the 3,500 Rangers fans inside Old Trafford tonight are unlikely to pass up the opportunity to torment the England forward. Liverpool's travelling contingent will also relish the chance to goad Rooney on Sunday.
Ferguson has no intention of prolonging Rooney's absence from the firing line any longer, however, and he insists he has no fears about thrusting the 24-year-old back to centre stage against the Scottish champions.
"No -- none at all," Ferguson said. "I said in my TV interview on Saturday that I would not subject him to that nonsense at that ground (Goodison) and it was a benefit to our team.
"No regrets. I did the right thing. I am expecting a good performance from him (against Rangers), though."
Having scored a hat-trick on his United debut against Fenerbahce in 2004, Rooney has previous for turning it on when the focus on him is at its most intense.
"He will always do that." Ferguson said. "He is a terrific player and his performance against Switzerland (for England) when scoring was as good a boost to him as anything.
"He will be looking forward to this game, though, like all of our players will. European games are fantastic occasions and we have had some wonderful nights at this club."
Rangers can at least turn to the knowledge of David Weir and Madjid Bougherra to shackle Rooney.
Bougherra helped stifle him during England's dismal 0-0 draw with Algeria in Cape Town during the World Cup, while Weir witnessed Rooney's emergence at first hand during his time at Everton.
The Rangers captain said: "I remember him breaking into the team at Everton, coming in as a 16-year-old and taking to it like a duck to water. He scored some great goals and that famous one against Arsenal which announced him on the scene.
"I'm sure he will thrive on any stick he gets from the fans. Wayne Rooney the football player is all we're interested in and he's one of the best in the world, so I don't think he'll need any extra encouragement."
While United will expect to emerge untroubled from a group that also contains a declining Valencia and Champions League debutants Bursaspor, from Turkey, greater challenges lie ahead if Ferguson's players are to win the club's fourth European Cup, at Wembley in May.
The threat from Spain, in the shape of Barcelona and Real Madrid, is most likely to prove the most formidable, yet while both clubs have strengthened in recent months, Ferguson insists that United remain a force, despite the modest transfer business undertaken at Old Trafford recently.
Ferguson said: "We have no financial restrictions and if I hadn't been confident (in the squad), we would have done something.
"I looked around at the market and there was only one player (David Villa) I would have brought here, but that move was sealed off quite early by the club he went to.
"The best thing we can do, until the market becomes more sensible, is produce and buy young players and develop them at the club. By doing that, we are securing the next eight years easily at Manchester United.
"I don't think we are at the point where we have to go overboard to get the best player in the world. There are enough really top players at the club at the moment." (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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