Sir Alex Ferguson insists Wayne Rooney still needs time to find top form despite his goalscoring return to the Manchester United starting line-up at Ibrox on Wednesday night.
After a turbulent few weeks, both personally and professionally, Rooney showed admirable composure to stroke home the 87th-minute penalty that gave United their 1-0 Champions League win over Rangers.
– Rangers 0-1 Man United
Typically, Rooney feels he is back to top form, however, Ferguson said: “He needs games. The way we are going to do that is to keep him on the pitch for 90 minutes. That will continue now as we try to get him to his level. He is rusty, that is obvious, but it is a start for him.”
The goal swept the Red Devils into the knockout stages with a game to spare, but almost as importantly it signalled Rooney’s well-being following a debilitating ankle injury and the furore over his new contract.
For Rooney, it was the perfect way to mark his first United start since the beginning of October.
But even after such a gap, and all the column inches that have been filled about him, he felt no pressure as he strode up to take the spot-kick.
“There were not many nerves really,” said Rooney. “I knew what I was doing and where I was going. I can only do that. If the keeper guesses the right way and saves it, so be it. Thankfully it went in.
“Obviously it is a bit of a relief for me to score. Hopefully I can build on this now.”
Rooney’s only other goal this season came from the penalty spot too, against West Ham in August, and he was quick to race away to the United section of a packed Ibrox, another step forward in rebuilding his relationship with the club’s fans.
“I wanted to celebrate with our fans,” he said. “It is always nice to beat Rangers away. Hopefully I can go on a goalscoring run now but really I am just delighted to be back playing again. I felt good. I felt fit throughout the game. I want to build on this performance and this goal.”