Belfast Telegraph

Champions League: Manchester United can rule Europe again, insists Wayne Rooney

By Paul Hirst

Wayne Rooney has backed Manchester United to become a major force at home and in Europe again.

Rooney heads back to the city where he enjoyed the best night of his career this week.

For the United and England skipper, Moscow is synonymous with glory. On a sodden night in the Russian capital seven years ago, Rooney and his team-mates beat Chelsea on penalties to clinch United's third European Cup.

The venue may be different - CSKA Moscow play in the Khimki Arena, not the Luzhniki Stadium - but the feeling of going back to Moscow remains the same for Rooney ahead of tonight's Champions League group stage encounter.

The 29-year-old, speaking aboard United's chartered flight east, recalled that night in Moscow with a warm smile.

"It was the highlight of my career," the striker said.

"It is a massive competition to play in, to win the trophy it's obviously great memories."

It was not such an enjoyable experience at the time. Substituted in the second half, the forward had to watch on from the half-way line, arm in arm with his team-mates, as the penalty shoot-out unfolded 50 yards downfield.

Michael Carrick could bring himself to watch. Rooney did, but he did not enjoy it. He said: "When you are on the sideline and you have no influence. It's quite difficult to watch, but it obviously ended great."

The Champions League has brought Rooney pain too. He has been on the losing team on two occasions. Last year he had to watch from the sidelines because of United's failure to qualify under David Moyes.

Rooney believes those days of disappointment are a thing of the past now. The former Everton forward is convinced United are starting to become a force to be reckoned with once more under Louis van Gaal.

"We want to get back to winning trophies, of course. That is why you play football - to try and be successful, certainly at this club," Rooney said.

"In the last few years we haven't been good enough.

"There has been a big change in the club over the last few years and it's now starting to settle back down into a good rhythm with what the manager wants from us and we are improving.

"If we keep going the way we are, keep improving the way we are, then we will have a good chance of being successful."

Rooney, who turns 30 on Saturday, has won five Premier Leagues, two League Cups and the Champions League during a successful 13-year career.

There will be a tinge of disappointment when Rooney's career ends if he has not won Europe's top club competition once more.

He said: "It's a tough competition to play in and obviously I am delighted to have won it in my time here, but obviously it is disappointing to lose two finals, so it would be nice if we go on a good run in the competition and try and get success in the competition again.

"But that's in the future. We have to focus now on the game tomorrow and try and get ourselves in a good position in the group."

Champions League: Arena Khimki, 7.45 pm (BT Sport)

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