Rooney prepares for United return after 'intense' training trip

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The Independent Online

Unbeaten, with the finest English footballer of his generation ready for a return to action, and the Glazers about to clear the infamous PIK loans without putting their hands in the tills of the megastore: all must be right in the world of Manchester United. Roberto Martinez certainly thinks so, as his Wigan Athletic team prepare to visit Old Trafford today.

"In my eyes Manchester United are just where they want to be," said Martinez. "They are starting to get the important players reaching their moment of form and have injured players coming back. They're just sitting in a very good position to peak at the right time."

Neither Sir Alex Ferguson nor United fans are quite so effusive. The fans want to know where the Glazers have suddenly found £220m, while for Ferguson being unbeaten is no consolation for only being third in the Premier League, three points behind Chelsea.

"We've thrown points away," said the manager. In reference to the late recovery at Villa Park he added: "Last week we stole one, so maybe that balances itself out, but we are still angry at ourselves at losing late goals. We have got this great record of scoring late goals, but we have suffered from it on the opposite side this season."

The return of Wayne Rooney may fix that. But it may not. Last season Rooney scored 34 goals for Manchester United and was Footballer of the Year. This season he has scored one for the club, a penalty. He has been dogged by injury and became so disaffected with United that he spoke openly of leaving. He has since signed a five-year deal, had a sunshine break in Dubai and been to Oregon for intense fitness work at Niketown. United hope this has rejuvenated and refocused Rooney, but cannot be sure.

"He has been doing OK. He just needs to get back into the football training," said Ferguson yesterday. "The week in Oregon was intense. That in itself brings the fitness part, but the football part of training is another thing. With him being out with the ankle injury we needed to get him onto the intense training to get his fitness levels up

"I don't think he'll start against Wigan. Maybe he will reach the bench, but he will certainly play against Rangers [in the Champions League] on Wednesday."

Ferguson must also make decisions on the fitness of Ryan Giggs (hamstring), Rafael (bruising), Chris Smalling (groin) and Rio Ferdinand (hamstring). Wigan are likely to replace Gary Caldwell (thigh) with his brother, Steven, and have doubts over Emerson Boyce (muscle strain) and James McCarthy (ankle).

Wigan, who are only a point clear of the relegation zone, have never beaten Manchester United, suffering 11 straight defeats in league and cup since being promoted to the top flight five years ago. Last season they lost 5-0 home and away against their neighbours but Martinez said: "I think we're looking at it as a real challenge, something the players want to change. If you look at the stats nobody would expect Wigan Athletic to get anything at Old Trafford, so it's a real good challenge. I just feel the squad is ready for it."

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