Rooney receives role reminder
Wayne Rooney received a reminder to concentrate on what he is good at during Manchester United's Premier League victory over Birmingham City yesterday. With Cristiano Ronaldo joining Real Madrid, the England forward has been promised a more central berth by Sir Alex Ferguson this season.
The immediate response has been positive. Rooney followed his goal in last weekend's Community Shield by scoring his 99th for United to clinch all three points against Alex McLeish's newly-promoted side.
Yet it seems old habits die hard. For even though Ferguson has told the 23-year-old to do his damage in central areas, he could not resist the temptation to saunter out to the wing at times in his quest to get on the ball. "He wants to be everywhere all the time," said United assistant manager Mike Phelan.
"But we have ten other good players on the field and sometimes he has to realise the place where he does his best work is the best place to be. Wayne sometimes drifts around and there were instances of that against Birmingham. His overall performance was good but he needs to remember when we create chances, he scores goals."
It is just a gentle reminder that Rooney is not quite the finished article. The problem is one Fabio Capello combats with England by allowing Rooney to swap positions with Steven Gerrard.
No such opportunity currently exists at United, where neither Nani nor new signing Antonio Valencia are sure enough of their own bearings to risk an experiment in which they end up being overshadowed. Nevertheless, Rooney has started the campaign in decent goalscoring form, even if he might have got himself into three figures yesterday.
"It could have been 100," he said. "I had a couple of chances but their keeper made some good saves. Overall I am delighted with the goal and pleased we got the three points."
Team changes for Turf Moor?
Having ended a two-year sequence of not winning their first match - although it did not stop them lifting the title on either occasion - the Red Devils now make the short trip to Burnley, where they will become Turf Moor's first top-flight visitors for 33 years.
Ferguson does have a few worries, with Jonny Evans a doubt as he struggles to recover from an ankle injury. In addition, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic are sidelined, so John O'Shea will continue in central defence, probably alongside Wes Brown, who came on as a substitute once it became apparent that Evans could not continue.
Elsewhere, Ferguson does have options, with both Anderson and Michael Carrick, who, along with Park Ji-Sung, did not even make the bench yesterday, eager for a start. Michael Owen is chomping at the bit to get involved after nearly crowning his late substitute appearance with a goal, while Federico Macheda wants to continue the impressive form he showed in pre-season.
Ben Foster is set to continue in goal after producing a solid performance, one save in particular to deny Christian Benitez caught the eye. After dropping below the standards he sets himself at Wembley last week, it was vital for the England goalkeeper to regain top form quickly.
And, after confirming his fitness following a knee injury, the 26-year-old was delighted to do just that. "I was happy with my contribution, especially after last week," he said. "I was disappointed with my personal performance at Wembley so it was good to bounce back and get a clean sheet.
"I just have got to give it all I have got now. Unfortunately, Edwin has suffered his injury and will be out for a period of time. I have to do what I can in the time he is out, and when he is back and fit again I have to hope I have done enough to stay where I am."