Alex Ferguson banks on Wayne Rooney returning to form

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The Independent Online

Sir Alex Ferguson is hoping Wayne Rooney will return from his ankle injury a different player now that his Manchester United future has been resolved.

Ferguson estimates it will be another three weeks at least before Rooney is fit to return, a timescale that would rule him out of next Wednesday's Manchester derby at Eastlands, plus England's friendly with France on November 17.

Rooney's history suggests he will be pushing those boundaries to the limit in his desperation to play, after making just one substitute appearance in seven matches, including tonight's Champions League encounter with Bursaspor in Turkey.

Yet it cannot be entirely overlooked that the 25-year-old has hardly been in the best of form this season.

Given the performances of Dimitar Berbatov and Mexican new-boy Javier Hernandez, there is even an argument Rooney may have to be patient and wait for his opportunity to shine.

However, Ferguson feels his star striker may come back a new man, with the pressure of contract talks now over and a lucrative five-year deal in his back pocket.

"I think that this has been preying on his mind," Ferguson told Inside United.

"I don't know the reason for his loss of form because it started in the World Cup.

"Whether some clubs have been filling his head in that period to affect him we don't know. I have not asked him that.

"The important thing is for us to put it behind us and move on. But certainly something has been troubling him."

Rooney has not scored a goal for United in open play since March, his only strike this term coming from the penalty spot against West Ham in August.

It is a quite remarkable change in fortunes for a player who was lighting up the world stage 12 months ago, already well on his way to an impressive 34-goal haul before he suffered an ankle injury against Bayern Munich, after which he has not been the same player.

Yet the United supporters stuck loyally by their man, which is why his comments about the club's prospects for the future amid that contract furore were so startling.

The reaction was quick, with supporters besieging phone-ins and message boards expressing their distaste for the player's stance. And Ferguson believes it played a major role in Rooney's swift U-turn.

"Wayne obviously had some advice from people, but he has also realised the magnitude of Manchester United," he said.

"I think that (the reaction) was definitely a part of it.

"He won't have enjoyed that. You know, nobody enjoys that sort of attention. Especially after the supporters have idolised him from the minute he's come here and done nothing but support him through thick and thin.

"He would have been taken aback by that. There's no doubt about that."

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