Wayne Rooney insists that Manchester United will not falter as they chase silverware on five fronts.
United have the opportunity to move eight points above Liverpool at the top of the English Premier League when they host Blackburn Rovers at Old Trafford today. With the club world championship already in the trophy cabinet after United’s victory in Japan in December, Sir Alex Ferguson’s men now face a potentially historic final three months to the season.
After the Blackburn game, they re-start their Champions League campaign with a last 16 first-leg match at Inter on Tuesday, before facing Tottenham Hotspur in the League Cup final next weekend. Following that, United face Newcastle United in the league before the second leg against Inter, an FA Cup quarter-final and then a vital game against Liverpool at Old Trafford.
England striker Rooney, 23, who returned from five weeks out with a hamstring problem in the 3-0 win over Fulham at Old Trafford in midweek, said: “It is obviously always nicer to be top of the league rather than chasing, which we have been for most of the season.”
“Now we are a few points clear, we know what we have got to do and hopefully we will do it,” he said. “Personally, I want to win all the trophies. People talk about the Champions League and Premier League, but I’ve had my two biggest heartaches in football in the FA Cup. And the League Cup was the first major trophy I ever won. If we can win any of these trophies it is a great boost for the club.”
“We’re delighted we’re still in all the competitions,” the former Everton forward saidd. “At the start of the season, the aim is to go as far as we can in all of them. To be still in all of them in February is great for the team and if we can win a few of them it would be great for the club and everyone.”
Ferguson himself is confident that his side have the psychological strength to continue their fine form. United have now clocked up nine straight wins in the Premier League.
“We are in excellent form,” Ferguson said. “We may not win every game between now and May, but that will be our aim. There is also a mental toughness about the team these days and that will stand us in good stead as the pressure builds. This current group of players has been together for a couple of seasons and they have developed strong bonds and, as we enter the final months of the season, I think we are going to take some beating.”
Blackburn are still in the bottom three despite a significant upturn in performances since Sam Allardyce arrived in December.
The Rovers boss is likely to restore South African star Benni McCarthy to his starting line-up after the striker started on the bench for last week’s 2-2 FA Cup draw with Coventry City, but key defender Chris Samba is suspended. Australian midfielder Brett Emerton is a long-term absentee after undergoing surgery on a knee ligament problem in his homeland earlier this week.
With Rovers’ Premier League status still very much in the balance, chairman John Williams admits decisions over the futures of Andre Ooijer, Tugay and South African midfielder Aaron Mokoena will not be taken until their contracts expire after the end of the season.
“Our whole focus has to be on staying up at the moment,” Williams said. “That is what every single effort is being put into at the moment. We are not in contract discussions with any of our senior players at this moment, that will have to wait.”