Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is confident Wayne Rooney will start scoring again – but he will not start him against Crawley Town.
Rooney netted a goal-of-the-season contender against Manchester City last week, a strike which could herald an upturn in form.
However, the England international is likely to be on the bench for Saturday’s FA Cup fifth round tie against the non leaguers.
Ferguson is trying to juggle resources ahead of a key 10 days for United, which includes trips to Marseille and Chelsea.
He will be without inured Michael Owen at the weekend, with Javier Hernandez pencilled in to start against Crawley.
Rooney is the man of the moment though, and Ferguson is hoping he can recapture the kind of form he was in until he was injured against Bayern Munich in last season’s Champions League quarter-final.
“Up until last season Wayne used to go on these scoring bursts,” said Ferguson.
“He used to do it in five or six games in a row and then go missing in terms of goals for a few games and then come back again.”
“I would be quite happy for him to go on a burst now because we have some really important games coming up.”
On the subject of Hernandez, who has impressed during his first season at United, Ferguson said: “Javier’s training performances have improved tremendously in the last couple of months. His work-rate and practice ethic have been very good.”
“He comes in early and stays behind. He has done very well in that sense and is improving all the time.”
“He is a great impact player.”
Despite the absence of Rooney, Crawley will not relish facing the Mexican, who will be joined by some fringe players in a United side that will not be at full strength – but which should still win comfortably.
Rafael and Fabio da Silva are set to start, along with Wes Brown, John O’Shea, Darren Gibson, Michael Carrick, Anderson and Bebe.
Goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard made his debut for United in the last round away at Southampton, and will be recalled to the side for his Old Trafford debut.
United will be without Rio Ferdinand, Park Ji-sung, Jonny Evans and Owen, and Ferguson has warned those who start will have to be at their best.
“They talk about the FA Cup dying but it won’t die as long as you’ve got giant-killing acts that Crawley have already produced,” he said.
“It will be brilliant for the Crawley fans but their team’s performances against Derby County, Swindon and Torquay tell you they deserve to be in this round.”
“We respect the fact that Crawley are the best non-league side for quite a while.”