Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Rooney eyes revenge against Arsenal

Wayne Rooney was not at Manchester United in 2002 — but he has heard the song often enough to make sure he intends Saturday to be payback time for Arsenal.

Two seasons before Rooney's arrival at Old Trafford from Everton, the Gunners turned the famous stadium into their very own Theatre of Dreams, Sylvain Wiltord grabbing the winner to crown Arsene Wenger's men champions.

Michael Carrick's late strike at the JJB Stadium on Wednesday means United are now just one point away from winning the championship themselves and drawing level with Liverpool's long-standing record of 18 league titles.

And, with Arsenal heading north still smarting from not only their Champions League spanking by United 10 days ago but the home hammering at the hands of Chelsea that followed, Rooney is relishing the chance to win the league in Manchester himself.

"It would be brilliant to win it against Arsenal," reflected the England striker.

"They are a great footballing team but when their fans come to Old Trafford you always hear them singing about winning it there. It would be nice to do it against them this time."

The Premier League have confirmed they will present the trophy to United on Saturday afternoon should Sir Alex Ferguson's men avoid defeat, thus side-stepping the potentially tricky prospect of crowning them champions at Hull on May 24 minutes after the home club have potentially been relegated.

For Rooney, it would be a third such success, to go along with his 50 caps. Not bad for a 23-year-old, who also stands on the brink of a second European Cup win.

However, neither Rooney, his team-mates, or his manager are celebrating just yet. Arsenal will be given the utmost respect, as Wigan on Wednesday, with the champagne corks being opened only when the job is done.

"One point will win it for us and hopefully that can come on Saturday," said Rooney.

"The manager has only done it once at Old Trafford in 17 years so it would be brilliant to do it in front of our own fans.

"It would be a great achievement, something United have only done once before.

"To do it again and get to a second Champions League final would be great and something for us all to be proud of.

"But we don't just want to make finals we want to win trophies as well."

As well as equalling the hat-tricks achieved by Huddersfield (1924-26), Arsenal (1932-34), Liverpool (1982-84) and United themselves (1999-2001), it would also give the Red Devils as opportunity to become the first side in English football history to win the championship four years on the trot, not that such a prospect has crossed Rooney's mind.

"I would prefer to win this one first before I start thinking about that," he laughed.

Much more pertinently, it would offer Sir Alex Ferguson the opportunity to rest his entire squad at Hull in readiness for the Champions League final encounter with Barcelona in Rome four days' later.

Little wonder Arsenal can bank on sizeable north-east backing as they attempt to become the ultimate party-poopers, as supporters of Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough are acutely aware Hull's survival chances would be significantly increased if United head across the M62 with one lot of silverware already secure.

Not that Rooney can spend time worrying about that, knowing just how much United will benefit from an extended rest.

"If we can win the league by this weekend I am sure the manager will choose to rest some players," said Rooney.

"That could be really important, especially when you look at the position Hull are in at the minute.

"If we have to go there to get a point it will be a really difficult game because they are fighting to stay up, which is not ideal given the Champions League final is so close."

Yet again, Ferguson will make changes. Ben Foster is due a start but may be forced to wait a week, while Gary Neville could also come into contention.

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