Fulham's other Hughes fears Rooney backlash

Experienced defender expects hungry striker to stir the wounded beast today

For all the pride he feels at having played a part in successive home wins over Manchester United, the impression is that Fulham's experienced centre-half Aaron Hughes is concerned that his team might merely have pulled the tail of a ferocious lion.

If retribution is to come at Craven Cottage this afternoon, it could be extracted, Hughes believes, by a hungry Wayne Rooney.

Not since a Champions' League game away to Bayern Munich last March has Rooney hit the net for club or country, the ankle sprain he picked up after doing so apparently handicapping him almost ever since. Yet that goal was his 34th of the season and had he not missed crucial matches in the run-in, there is reason to believe that United could have become Premier League champions for the fourth successive season and knocked out Bayern too.

Instead they began their League season on Monday as runners-up, achieving a comfortable victory over Hughes' first club Newcastle United, which he followed with interest and a certain apprehension. "They looked pretty good," he admitted. "So we know we're going to have a very tough task. It's not just the front men, it's the runs from midfield, when you've got [Paul] Scholes playing the way he is at the minute, picking out passes and bringing other people into the game. They carry an all-round threat. You try to stick to your shape and your game plan and you need a little bit of luck along the way."

Those qualities earned a 3-0 win over United last December, when the visitors had to play Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick in defence; and a 2-0 success the previous season, when both Scholes and Rooney were sent off, the latter departing with a valedictory punch at the corner-flag. Hughes had experienced the worst of that temperament too on a famous night in Belfast, when he captained Northern Ireland to victory over Sven Goran Eriksson's England with Rooney having to be restrained on the pitch by David Beckham.

There will be no attempt, however, to wind him up today. "I think that's just his character and how he plays," Hughes said. "Over the last few years he's controlled himself a lot better, shown a lot better temperament and that's why he's done so well. The best way to answer that criticism sometimes is to just get on with your game. I don't think you can take it out of your game completely because that's just the type of character he is. He has that hunger to win and I don't think anyone would want to take that away from him."

Hughes, like his namesake and manager Mark, is more concerned that a prime televised game in London is the sort of occasion on which the United striker might find his real form: "It's always the way that when people think he's having a bad spell that he turns round and knocks three in. That's the way football is.

"You look at any striker who hasn't scored in a few games and count the minutes and before you know where you are he'll be on six or seven in three games. I never read too much into that with a player of that quality." Quality too, he insists, that is by no means confined to goalscoring: "Strikers are judged on goals and a lot of their work away from that can be overlooked. You look at his runs, his touches, how he brings other people into the game, these things sometimes go unnoticed. So you can't take for granted that you're ever going to have an easier game against someone like Wayne Rooney."

Hughes makes the same point about the man who began the second half of England's recent international against Hungary alongside Rooney, Fulham's Bobby Zamora. "Again, a lot of the work he did used to go unnoticed. Last season was great for him to get that many goals and he finally got the credit he deserved for two years' hard work."

Scoring more goals in Europe than the Premier League, Zamora rather mirrored Fulham's season. This time Hughes believes they can climb back into the top half of the table, having sacrificed that position last spring to concentrate on a thrilling run to the Europa League final. They do so under a new manager and facing the possibility of losing their goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer to Arsenal, yet the philosophical Hughes, who has already played under three managers at Fulham as well as more than he can remember at Newcastle, takes it all in his stride. "If he went we'd certainly miss him. But it's not often you get the chance to go and play for one of the top four teams in the country. It's a big opportunity."

Like the one offered to Fulham – but also to Rooney – this afternoon.

Fulham vs Manchester United is live on Sky Sports 1 at 3.30pm today

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Night job: Pacha nightclub DJ, Joan Ribas, is the new kingmaker on the island
news
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family
film'I survived it, but I’ll never be the same,' says Arash Amel
Life and Style
Retailers should make good any consumer goods problems that occur within two years
tech(and what to do if you receive it)
Life and Style
healthIf one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada