Fri | Dec 9, 2016

Rooney returns to Everton

Published:Friday | February 19, 2010 | 12:00 AM

LONDON (AP):

Wayne Rooney's two goals against AC Milan have taken his Manchester United tally for the season to 25 and now he goes to face the club where he started his career.

The former Everton striker is now a target for the fans at Goodison Park for leaving the club and United manager Alex Ferguson might be tempted to give his hardworking striker a break tomorrow.

But Ferguson needs more goals when the two teams meet as United try to catch Chelsea in the Premier League title race.

Ferguson rates Rooney as one of the best players in the world alongside Lionel Messi, Kaka and former United winger Cristiano Ronaldo and wants to maintain the momentum with his team just a point behind Chelsea.

Rooney has started the last 15 league and cup games, scoring 13 times, and Ferguson is likely to stick with his tactic of fielding the striker alongside two wide players and leaving Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen on the bench.

"There has been an improvement in his game over the last two months," Ferguson said of Rooney. "Confidence has a lot to do with that but it's also his ability as a player.

"As I've said about him on a number of occasions what he has to do is improve his goalscoring. That is what he is doing now. When you look at the way he is performing at the moment, he must be regarded amongst those players at the highest level."

Unhappy

Tomorrow, however, Rooney will have to shut out the reception he now gets from the Everton fans and try to focus on adding to his scoring run.

He was unhappy with some of his teammates when the team fell behind against Milan in Tuesday's Champions League game at San Siro, which United won 3-2, and hopes that Ferguson gives him the support he needs to hit the target.

Nani, playing on the right wing, was a particular disappointment and Ferguson is likely to start with Antonio Valencia, who replaced the Portuguese player and created more danger with his crosses and runs.

United's task has been made a little easier because Everton won't have Marouane Fellaini who is sidelined for six months with a serious ankle injury which happened in the February 6 loss at Liverpool. They are also likely to be without attacking midfielder Tim Cahill, who picked up a calf-muscle injury in Tuesday's Europa League win over Sporting Lisbon.

Chelsea were not in action in midweek and go to relegation-threatened Wolves tomorrow hoping to gather three more points as they move in sight of regaining the title they last won in 2006.

Confident

Third-place Arsenal have six points to make up on Chelsea and will be confident of gaining a home victory against a Sunderland side which has won only one and lost nine of their 13 away games in the league, conceding 28 goals.

Manchester City have climbed to fourth place and have a game in hand on their rivals. But they have a tough game at home to fifth-place Liverpool on Sunday in the race to capture a position that opens the door to the Champions League next season.

Of the other teams realistically in contention, sixth-place Tottenham visit lowly Wigan and Aston Villa, who are seventh, host next-to-last Burnley.

Last-place Portsmouth host a Stoke side which has won only once in 12 away games but has climbed to comparative safety because of their home form.

In tomorrow's other game, relegation strugglers West Ham and Hull meet at Upton Park. On Sunday, Fulham welcome Birmingham and Blackburn are at home to Bolton.

In the race for promotion, Newcastle hold a three-point lead at the top of the League Championship and host Preston and second-place West Bromwich have a home game against Bristol City.

Third-place Nottingham Forest, who are five points behind, host improving Middlesbrough.