Friday, 20 February 2009

Rooney return leaves Tevez twitchy

Wayne Rooney will start on Saturday against Blackburn at Old Trafford when Manchester United look to extend their Premier League lead over nearest challengers and bitter rivals Liverpool by eight points.

The England striker celebrated his return to competitive action on Wednesday from a career-first hamstring injury by scoring with his first touch in the 3-0 cakewalk against Fulham.

Sir Alex Ferguson confirmed: "Wayne Rooney will play. He has to start so we can see how far advanced he is but we think he's fine."

Rooney's inclusion does not, however, bode well for fellow striker Carlos Tevez, whose agent, Kia Joorabchian, on Friday revealed his third-party owners are now "studying other options" after Ferguson gave up first option on the 25-year-old at the end of January.

Tevez's two-year loan at Old Trafford expires at the end of the season and Real Madrid and Internazionale are understood to be considering offers in the region of £30million.

Ryan Giggs, Darren Fletcher and Rafael are also set to feature against Sam Allardyce's side, but defender John O'Shea is a minor doubt because of a heel injury.

Allardyce enjoyed Ferguson's company after the midweek win over Roy Hodgson's travel-sick side but has refuted Arsenal counterpart Arsene Wenger's assertion that the Premier League leaders look "untouchable". He has also ventured down the reverse psychology route by claiming there is no pressure on his players.

But the omens do not look good.

Blackburn make the 27 miles journey between the two clubs one point off the foot of the table, without any away league goals since November and without an away top-flight victory since September.

They have also dropped more away points to United than to any other club in the Premier League (36).

Giant defender Chris Samba is suspended for the game after picking up five yellow cards this season.

Edwin van der Sar will be looking to set a new European record with a 15th consecutive clean sheet, and, while Ferguson has been quick to play down suggestions that the Premier League title race is already over - despite one bookmaker paying out on bets placed on United to win the domestic crown, Carling Cup and FA Cup - this one does have the look of a home banker.

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