Derby: Lion Wayne Rooney ready to roar for Manchester United

From the madness in Montenegro to the angst at Anfield Wayne Rooney’s Champions League double this week ensured Sir Alex Ferguson dare not leave his star striker out of this one.

The controversial forward’s match-winning display against Otelul Galati has convinced his manager that he can keep cool in the intense heat of Sunday’s epic derby.

And as far as Ferguson is concerned, it is not a moment too soon with Roberto Mancini’s table-topping City heading to Old Trafford in a genuine title six-pointer.

Fabio Capello’s apparent admission that England cannot afford to go to Euro 2012 without even a suspended Rooney is proof-positive of his importance to the national team. And the same applies to United no matter what baggage he brings with him.

In the wake of his three-game international suspension by UEFA, which means he will miss the entire group stage of next summer’s Euros, Ferguson left Rooney out of his starting side against Liverpool and almost paid the price.

A late Javier Hernandez’ equaliser salvaged a point, but United’s lack of penetration at Anfield was evident of just how reliant they are on the 25-year-old.

Rooney responded in perfect fashion on Tuesday night – creating and scoring both goals in the crucial 2-0 win in Bucharest.

That made it 11 goals in nine games this season – firepower Ferguson simply cannot do without in a match he described as the biggest derby of his 25 years in charge of United.


Ferguson will be hoping Rooney can continue his outstanding strike rate against City at Old Trafford.

He scored in each of the last four derbies he’s started at Old Trafford – including his stunning volley in the 2-1 win in February.

His absence was also sorely felt when suspended for the FA Cup semi final defeat in April.

If Rooney has made up Ferguson’s mind at one end of the pitch, he faces a major dilemma at the other.

With Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand both back fit he must decide whether to go with his most experienced central defensive partnership – or turn to Chris Smalling, Phil Jones or Jonny Evans.

Those three understudies have been pivotal to United’s impressive start to the season, despite being thrown in at the deep end against Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool.

Vidic played for United on Tuesday for the first time since the opening day of the season. But his return ended in misery when shown a red card for a high lunge on Gabriel Giurgiu.

With lack of match fitness Ferguson must now decide if he will throw his captain into the intensity of a derby.

“He is a warrior,” said the United manager. “He is the best penalty box defender in the Premier League.

“There are games when he’s absolutely vital to us. Fortunately you see the progress of Jonny Evans, the progress of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling and we’re pretty strong in that department now in terms of the five of them can play at centre back.

“If you look over the last few years and the injuries that we’ve had to defenders, it’s a godsend to have those five.”

What team should Fergie select? Have your say.

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