Ferguson determined to get the best from Rooney

August 16, 2008

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson intends to 'play fair' with Wayne Rooney this season.

The England striker has been overshadowed by Cristiano Ronaldo's exploits over the last couple of years, leading to claims from some critics that he has not improved as much as many thought when he exploded onto the scene as a raw teenager at Euro 2004.

It is not an assessment Ferguson agrees with. However, the Red Devils boss does accept Rooney's willingness to get his hands dirty in the United cause has often seen him shunted away from the areas where he can do most damage.

And with Ronaldo missing until October as he recovers from ankle surgery, Ferguson is going to put Rooney back where he belongs.

'We have to be fairer to Wayne this season,' said the Scot.

'He is such a willing performer that you are always tempted to listen to him at times.

'He says he could play centre-midfield, centre-half, goalkeeper. If you ask him to do a job, he will - no problem.

'That is the kind of individual you are dealing with. He has that great desire to play anywhere.'

Rooney should help United find the cutting edge they missed at Wembley last weekend, when Carlos Tevez was forced to play up front on his own.

The Merseysider's return also means Ryan Giggs can fill the left wing berth Nani's suspension prevents him from taking up.

Given United have not lost on home soil against Newcastle for 25 years and that they belted 11 past the hapless Magpies in two one-sided encounters last term, the defending champions are tipped to make a flying start.

However, the evidence of last term, when Ferguson's men picked up two points from their opening three games, means it is not necessarily essential for the home side to get a win at the start of a 38-game programme where the United boss feels Chelsea will be the ones to beat.

'Arsenal had a great run last season until they got injuries in March, while Liverpool have signed Robbie Keane and one or two others,' said Ferguson.

'But Chelsea are the most experienced and they might be our biggest threat.

'Last season it took us a bit of time to get ourselves focused before we really went on a consistent run.

'You would prefer to get a good start but we are able to go the long distance.'