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Having stolen the show with some stellar performances at UEFA EURO 2004™, Wayne Rooney seems set for his UEFA Champions League debut as Manchester United FC welcome Turkish champions Fenerbahçe SK to Old Trafford.
Rooney moved to United from Everton FC for €29.6m last month, but has remained sidelined with the broken foot he suffered in England's EURO 2004™ quarter-final defeat by Portugal in June, having scored four goals in the tournament. However, he is now ready to return and manager Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed that the 18-year-old striker will make his bow for United and play his first European club game.
"He is likely to be involved," Sir Alex said. "I am just mulling over whether to start him or put him on the bench. Maybe putting him on the bench would be the fairest thing to do to him, none the less he is going to be involved and it is something we are all looking forward to."
The manager has certainly been impressed so far. "We are very pleased with him," Sir Alex said. "He is just an ordinary lad, who has a great work ethic and has really impressed us in training. He just needs to be consistent, but then every young player is the same, they all have lots to learn, tactically."
Sir Alex could choose to combine Rooney with Ruud van Nistelrooij, who struck twice to turn a 2-0 Matchday 1 deficit at Olympique Lyonnais into a 2-2 draw. Fenerbahçe's veteran Dutch forward Pierre van Hooijdonk, who was the goalscorer as his side defeated AC Sparta Praha 1-0 in their Group D opener, certainly fears the potential partnership.
Van Hooijdonk impressed
Rooney alongside Ruud will be a really dangerous combination, probably one of the best of the competition," Van Hooijdonk said. "I can understand why all the talk in Manchester is of Rooney. I was at the [UEFA] European Championship with the Netherlands and I saw what he did. Rooney has a great future, but it is all about doing it on the pitch. That is why Van Nistelrooij is still the main man at Old Trafford."
Along with Rooney, United can also call on defender Gary Neville and forward Louis Saha, who both missed the trip to Lyon, but Paul Scholes has picked up a groin strain and is ruled out. Roy Carroll will also remain in goal at the expense of Tim Howard following fine Premiership displays against Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC in the last week.
Whoever United field, Fenerbahçe can take heart from their group stage visit in October 1996, when Elvir Bolic's late strike gave them a 1-0 win and ended United's unbeaten home record in Europe that stretched back more than 40 years. Sir Alex said: "I think Turkish football is to be respected. They have produced some good individual players and we are not underestimating them."
Fenerbahçe are without the suspended Servet Cetin and Kemal Arslan is out with a leg injury. Coach Christoph Daum wants an improvement on the showing against Sparta, despite the victory, and has demanded "top level performances" from his players.
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