Belfast Telegraph

West Ham v Manchester United FA Cup: Slaven Bilic hopes Red Devils don't call on Wayne Rooney

By Mark Bryans

Slaven Bilic is praying Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney does not make his long-awaited comeback against West Ham tonight after labelling the striker the best England player of his era.

Rooney, 30, is in contention to play some part of United's FA Cup quarter-final replay against the Hammers at Upton Park having played an hour for the Under-21 side on Monday.

The United and England skipper has been missing with a knee injury since a 2-1 defeat at Sunderland on February 13 but manager Louis van Gaal hinted he could be involved in the cup tie.

Rooney, like the Red Devils as a whole, has struggled this season and has scored just seven Premier League goals - seeing his starting berth for England brought into question given the goalscoring form of both Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane.

West Ham are looking to win their final ever cup tie at Upton Park ahead of their summer move to the Olympic Stadium and asked if Rooney had a point to prove given his lack of goals, Bilic replied: "I don't know about that.

"I am a massive Rooney fan, since he stepped on the pitch in an Everton shirt. I can't talk about Jimmy Greaves, Bobby Charlton or Bobby Moore but for me in my football era, Rooney is the best English player.

"I would rather him not play. I would rather him watch the game if he was 100 per cent, even 70 per cent fit.

"Because they lost 3-0 we really don't know who's going to play, is it going to be Rooney from the start, is it going to be (Marouane) Fellaini, is it going to be (Ander) Herrera? Is he going to change a lot or stick to the team?

"We don't know. So it makes it harder for us. But we aren't going to change the team because of them."

A Wembley semi-final date with Everton on April 23 is anything but a given. When asked if United had lost their fear factor, the Croatian said: "Yes, but they can get that fear factor back during the game.

"Of course we are not going to make our players be afraid of them. But respect them."

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