Rooney says the hard part is over

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Manchester United have got their nightmare run of games out of the way - now the Premier League better watch out according to Wayne Rooney.

Although yesterday's point at Chelsea is the only thing keeping Sir Alex Ferguson's men above the relegation zone, Rooney knows they have a precious match in hand.

And he also realises in Portsmouth, Liverpool and Chelsea, United have already come through arguably the three hardest away games they will face all season.

Which is why the England man is so bullish about what lies ahead for the Old Trafford outfit.

"That was definitely a point gained for us and was an answer to our critics," said the 22-year-old.

"As soon as we saw the fixture list we knew it was going to be a tough start to the season.

"We have just had three really hard games, possibly our toughest of all.

"Now we have got them out of the way, hopefully we can go on a run."

Despite being just eight minutes away from ending Chelsea's incredible now 85-match unbeaten home record, Rooney still declared himself happy with the outcome, recognising the home side were in charge after the interval even if United were top dogs before the break.

"Chelsea have a really good record here, so although we were in front for quite a long time and did well, a draw was a good result and probably quite fair given how the game went," he said.

"I had a half-chance before they equalised which I might have done a bit better with.

"But it wasn't to be and overall we did well."

Aside from seven bookings, the full ramifications of which will be determined by the FA, United also know some of their key men are nearing full fitness.

Record signing Dimitar Berbatov was starting only his second game of the season, as were goalscorer Park Ji-sung, skipper Gary Neville and midfielder Owen Hargreaves.

And Cristiano Ronaldo has now managed two substitute appearances as well.

The Portugal superstar is clearly still some way below his best, although Rooney is confident it won't be long before Ronaldo is terrorising defences on a regular basis once more.

"It is a great boost for everyone to have Cristiano back," said Rooney.

"He adds a different dimension to our play, so hopefully he can get a few more games under his belt.

"Everyone knows what a great player he is. Once he is fully fit he will soon start producing his best form again."

The partnership between Rooney and Berbatov also showed signs of flourishing, even if Carlos Tevez is unlikely to be left on the bench indefinitely by Ferguson, while the continuing impressive form of Jonny Evans is likely to provide the United boss with a major selection headache should Nemanja Vidic or Rio Ferdinand find themselves missing again.

Quite how many of Ferguson's first-team squad will be in action against Middlesbrough tomorrow night remains to be seen.

In sanctioning the Carling Cup tie just 48 hours after a trip to London, the Scot appeared to be sending out a clear signal that he intends handing opportunities to the likes of Daniel Welbeck as well as his three Brazilians, Rodrigo Possebon and the Da Silva brothers Rodrigo and Federico.

However, some of the more established members of United's squad, namely Anderson and Nani are desperately in need of match practice, while John O'Shea could be involved as well as Angolan striker Manucho, who is in line for his debut.

And though he will almost certainly be excused from duty, Rooney knows Ferguson is bound to feel happier about his team than he did at Liverpool last weekend, especially as Edwin van der Sar's knee injury is not predicted to prove serious.

"We were all very disappointed with that," recalled the Merseysider.

"Chelsea was different. It was a far better display and showed what a good side we can be at times."

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