Rooney happy to be United’s new Scholes


MANCHESTER UNITED manager Sir Alex Ferguson insists he’d have no issue playing Wayne Rooney in central midfield against heavyweight opposition after the striker impressed in an unfamiliar role last night.

Last season’s runners-up leapt to the top of Group C following a less than straightforward victory against modest but determined opposition.

United were dealt a blow in the 8th minute when Michael Owen was forced off with a thigh injury, but they broke the deadlock soon after when Luis Antonio Valencia converted a Phil Jones cross at the far post.

Though they offered little in attack, the Romanian champions made their illustrious hosts wait until three minutes from time to wrap up the points when Rooney’s deflected effort left Branko Grahovac stranded.

United have struggled to find the right balance in central midfield this season following the retirement last summer of Paul Scholes, and Ferguson believes Rooney may feature in a deeper role in more high-profile games as the season progresses.

“I thought he was fantastic in central midfield,” he said. “His awareness of people around him and choice of passing was really good. He did very well for us tonight.

“I think it’s a short-term thing at the moment. It’s difficult to say. The opposition played really well against us tonight but I’d be confident of playing him there (against bigger teams).”

Rooney added: “I played there a lot when I was younger and it’s something which means you get a lot of the ball and we had to defend at times as well tonight.

The manager asked me to do it and I’m happy to do it. I’ve said before I feel I’m a good enough footballer to play anywhere on the pitch.

“I’m not being big-headed, I feel I am capable of doing that and if the manager wants me to play there, I’ve no problem doing that.”

In their first home appearance since they were beaten 6-1 by Manchester City last month – a result described as a “debacle” and “embarrassing” by Ferguson in his programme notes – United still appeared to be carrying some of the mental scarring that scoreline inflicted.

The mood was lightened inside Old Trafford when Valencia poked home his second goal of the season after Rooney’s searching ball had located Dimitar Berbatov who, on a rare start, provided Jones with the invitation to cross invitingly for the Ecuador international.

It should have been the start of a goal avalanche but United had to wait until the 87th minute for Rooney to notch his 27th Champions League goal, albeit with the aid of a big deflection.

“We’ve won the game and it has put us in the position where if we win against Benfica we’ve won the group so that is the incentive for us,” added the United manager.