Wayne Rooney has said he feels “fresh” and “ready” for the climax to Manchester United's season, although there are rumours he may not start against Real Madrid tomorrow night.
The England striker played a full 90 minutes against Norwich at the weekend in a display which saw him create two of Shinji Kagawa's three goals, as well as finding the net himself in a fine all-round display.
Yet the decision by Sir Alex Ferguson to allow Rooney to play the full match, while starting Danny Welbeck on the bench and introducing the Bernabeu goalscorer only after 66 minutes to give Robin van Persie a break, has raised questions.
Rooney has been a certain starter in United's big games ever since announcing his arrival on the European stage by scoring a hat-trick on his debut against Fenerbahce in 2004.
Yet, with various other attacking options and with United set to go through if the match were to remain goalless, there are suggestions that the 27-year-old could be left out of the starting line up for tomorrow's tie. It would be considered a huge call by Ferguson to do so.
Despite the rumours that Rooney will be dropped, the Manchester United manager has said in the past that his number 10 benefits from playing as much as he can.
It is quite possible that Ferguson chose to play Rooney for the full match, albeit 72 hours before United's biggest game of the season, to get him into the best shape possible.
Speaking after United's victory which took them 15 points clear of Manchester City in the Premier League, Rooney made clear he felt good to play his part as United push for the treble.
"The age I'm at now is the time when most players start to peak – from now and across the next four or five years. Hopefully, that will be the case and the team will benefit from that," he said. "I haven't played as many games as I normally would have at this point in the season and I do feel fresh and ready for that battle until the end of the season.
"With the way the manager rotates the team there will be a lot of players who are feeling fresh as well. Some teams tend to field the same team every week and when you get towards the end of the season you can lose the sharpness because of it. We should definitely be well prepared.
"It's been a bit of a stop-start season for me, with a couple of injuries, which has been a bit disappointing. I just want to keep myself fit until the end of the season now and play a part in as many games as I can to help the team be successful."
Rooney proved he was up for the battle today, as the pictures above show. The striker was caught in the face by team-mate Tom Cleverley as the squad prepared for tomorrow's last 16 Champions League encounter.
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