Manchester United Wayne Rooney: I can haunt Arsenal again
Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney is out to have more fun at Arsenal's expense at Old Trafford tomorrow and said: "They must be sick of the sight of me."
The Gunners have figured prominently in the 28-year-old's career.
He announced himself on the Premier League stage against them with his wonder strike for Everton in 2002.
Two years later, following his £27m move to United, he won the penalty for Ruud van Nistelrooy's opener, then scored the second as the Arsenal 'Invincibles' saw their 49-match unbeaten record come to a shuddering halt.
Arsenal were also the opposition when Rooney scored his 100th Premier League goal, part of an overall haul of 10, the most England's talisman has scored against any individual club.
So Arsene Wenger could be forgiven a sense of trepidation when his league leaders head north this weekend.
"Arsenal do crop up quite often," said Rooney. "It is a bit weird. I am sure they must be sick of the sight of me at times.
"That first goal for Everton does seem like a long time ago. It was obviously a special goal for me, plus they were 32 games unbeaten. And I will always remember the 2004 game.
"There had been a lot of hype around it because of what happened the year before with Ruud van Nistelrooy. That was as tense as I ever remember it before a game.
"Arsenal were a fantastic team and it was a great feeling to beat them 2-0 and end that record."
Rooney was speaking at the launch of a three-year partnership between United and their new official timekeeper Bulova.
As part of the deal, the United squad will get the chance to design their own personalised watch, which Rooney intends to dedicate to his children – Kai and Klay.
"It is exciting," he said.
Not as exciting as facing Arsenal though, especially given the Gunners' recent form.
Wenger's side have established a five-point lead at the top of the table, and boast an eight-point advantage on United.
Yet the Red Devils are on an eight-match unbeaten run of their own and Rooney recognises now would be the ideal time to kick on.
"It is the perfect fixture for us," he said.
"Arsenal are obviously doing really well but with our current form, it is a chance for us to get a bit closer in the table."
Speaking following United's goalless draw with Real Sociedad in midweek, Rooney cast doubt on Arsenal's staying power.
It is a view he repeated yesterday, even though he accepted Arsenal look capable of maintaining their present form.
"I said before, it will be interesting to see whether they can maintain that because over the last six or seven years they have faded off," he said.
"Certainly, they seem in a better place. They seem stronger.
"We know we will have to be at our best to beat them.
"I have always enjoyed my games against them and it has always been a big game. Hopefully we can get the right result on Sunday."
In purely title terms, the result may not mean too much.
Even if United were to lose and slip 11 points behind their opponents, the gap would still be one they have bridged before, and with so many games remaining, no one would be losing too much sleep.
Yet, after collecting just one point from early-season encounters with Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City, victory would put an end to whispers that new boss David Moyes has trouble winning the biggest games.
The difference this time around is that Rooney has shrugged off all those niggling injuries that disrupted his early season.
Although he did start against Chelsea and City – when he scored United's consolation – he is now fully fit and ready to cause Arsenal more damage.
"I am just enjoying my football," he said. "I said over the summer, I worked hard and got my head down and was really looking forward to helping us be successful this season. Hopefully my form continues, we can win and we can go on a good run."
Meanwhile, United manager David Moyes has confirmed he has not spoken to Ashley Young in the wake of this week's diving furore.
Young has been at the centre of more unwanted attention after apparently going to ground too easily to win his side a penalty against Real Sociedad in midweek. Moyes defended his player at the time. And the Scot is still doing so now.
"No," said Moyes, when he was asked whether he had spoken to Young. "The referee was two yards away from it and gave a penalty. If you need to talk to anybody, you should ask the referee.
"I didn't see an issue at all. If anything, you should be more talking about the referee than the player."
Moyes' attitude may disappoint some, given he has spoken out against diving in the past and censured Young earlier this year, when he was booked for simulation against Crystal Palace.