The Rooney era begins at Man U with Champions match
MANCHESTER, England, AFP
September 29, 2004, 12:00 am TWN
Wayne Rooney, the 18-year-old who broke Manchester United bank, was set to start repaying Sir Alex Ferguson's 27 million pound investment against Turkish side Fenerbahce in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Ferguson has been told by the United board the next time he wants to buy a player he will have to sell one first after United's profits dropped following last season's third place in the English Premiership and failure to qualify for the Champions League quarter finals.
The chase for Rooney means United have spent next summer's transfer budget unless players are sold.
But Ferguson is confident he has spent wisely.
Rooney has been out of action since breaking a bone in his right foot during England's defeat to Portugal in the Euro 2004 quarterfinals.
He has not even played a reserve game in three months.
But Ferguson is convinced he is ready to play against the Turks.
"The Champions League will not hold any fears for him. If I did not think he could perform at that level I would not have bought him," Ferguson said.
"I am just mulling over whether to start him or put him on the bench," said Ferguson.
"Maybe putting him on the bench would be the fairest thing to do. Nonetheless, he is going to be involved."
And he believes Rooney and 19-year-old Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo, alongside Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, can bring the glory days back to Old Trafford.
"He has come to a club where there a lot of improvers in the team, players who practice a lot," Ferguson said.
"There is a lot of ambition about the club and hopefully that will help Wayne. I feel we are ready to progress as a team.
"Ronaldo for one is improving all the time and I cannot speak highly enough of the boy. He has been absolutely fantastic.
"The great thing he has is courage, which is unbelievable. The great players have all got that quality.
"We have got good young players and over the next few years you will see that."
Defender Wes Brown, 24, says there is a mood of confidence around the camp following the arrival of Rooney and the return of defender Rio Ferdinand after an eight-month ban.
"You can tell Wayne is a good player when you see him train," he said. "He is quick and strong on the turn.
"He is one of the players when you play against him, you have to look for him. He can cause you problems.
"We are feeling good now that Rio is back as well. He has been terrific and not looked out of shape at all."
Ferguson, however, says it could be some time before Rooney reaches his peak.
"In three to four years' time we might see the full article," he said.
"Then we can say this boy has been a great investment. The thing he has to get is consistency and there are things he needs to learn.
"One of those things is tactics. No player I know goes forward without practicing."
Fenerbahce opened their campaign by beating Sparta Prague and Ferguson expects a tough game.
The vital goal was scored by former Nottingham Forest and Celtic striker Pierre van Hooijdonk.
Ferguson said: "In a group issue it is vital you win your home games.
"We have done that quite well the last few years. Our home record is good.
"I saw Fenerbahce against Sparta and it was a good performance.
"We know a bit about their players. They have five Brazilians in their squad and we all know about Van Hooijdonk."
United will be without Paul Scholes for the match as he is sidelined for two weeks because of a groin injury.