Ferguson set to grant Rooney's cup wish

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The Independent Football

Wayne Rooney has been nagging Sir Alex Ferguson to let him play in tonight's Carling Cup tie with Coventry City at Old Trafford. Under normal circumstances, Rooney would be excused involvement as Ferguson takes the opportunity to give his less experienced players some exposure at senior level.

However, two games into his comeback from a broken foot, Rooney is desperate to face Iain Dowie's men – and has even laid claim to the captain's armband.

"Wayne Rooney's been in my ear wanting to play," Ferguson said. "He wants to play, he wants to be the captain, he wants to take the penalties, the corners, the free-kicks, the goal-kicks, the lot."

Rooney is likely to get his wish, even if it is just to get Ferguson a bit of peace.

The England striker will be joined by fellow first-team players Anderson and Nani and, possibly, John O'Shea, who has missed three games after injuring his knee on Republic of Ireland duty in the Czech Republic a fortnight ago.

Tellingly though, Owen Hargreaves was not among a list of players Ferguson confirmed will be involved, a firm indication the midfielder is still to recover from a thigh injury suffered in training with the national team three weeks ago.

"I'm going to play the younger ones, but also players like Anderson, Nani, and maybe John O'Shea," Ferguson said. "But the younger ones like Gerard Pique, Jonny Evans, Danny Simpson, Phil Bardsley, Chris Eagles, Lee Martin, Dong Fangzhuo, Fraizer Campbell and Tomasz Kuszczak – they'll all be involved."

Arsenal's young guns went all the way to the final of the Carling Cup last term before losing to a full-strength Chelsea at the Millennium Stadium. But Ferguson has challenged his youngsters to follow the example of United legend Bobby Charlton by grasping their chance in the first-team.

He said: "This is a really important night for these players. They all want regular first-team football and that's not easy to manage. I'm trying to get them games in the Premier League and in Europe too, but tonight is a great opportunity for them.

"I've just been reading Bobby Charlton's book and he speaks about his early years here. What came across strongly was the number of times he had to say, 'Believe in yourself Bobby, you'll get your chance'.

"I didn't realise he was 19 before he played his first game for United. He was being kept out of the team by more experienced players. It's the same with these young lads. They have to keep believing in themselves and, when their chance comes, take it. And they will get chances."

"A lot of these players have already shown great improvement. Chris Eagles has been sensational in training and the games he's played in.

"Young Jonny Evans and Gerard Pique have also been excellent, as has Danny Simpson. There's real promise there and that's what we want to see against Coventry."