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Sep, 28, 2012

Wayne Rooney relishes matchup

The competition for striking berths can only be a good thing for Manchester United, Wayne Rooney said Friday.

"We would like to play a little bit better and not concede as many goals as we have early in the season," he said. "It is something we have been working on. Hopefully, it will happen for us."

With Rooney recovered from the gashed thigh he suffered against Fulham last month, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson now has five top international forwards to select from ahead of Saturday's Barclays Premier League match vs. Tottenham (12:30 a.m. ET).

It says something that perceived first-choice pairing Rooney and Robin van Persie have yet to start a game together this season, yet still United has managed to move its way into second spot, just behind early pace-setters Chelsea.

Ferguson said he has no idea what his best striking partnership is going to be.

"It is early doors but at the moment I don't know where I am going in the sense of what my best partnership will be," said Ferguson. "Probably the strongest part of the club will be in the striker department. (Van Persie's arrival) should give everyone a push."

However, with a tricky Capital One Cup tie against Newcastle already negotiated, a Champions League encounter with CFR Cluj to come on Tuesday before a Premier League rematch with the Magpies next Sunday, Rooney said there is plenty of work for everyone.

"There is a lot of competition up front, but that is great for the squad," said Rooney. "The manager will rotate when he feels it is necessary.

"There are a lot of games throughout the season. It means we can get a rest here and there to make sure we are ready for the big games towards the end."

Rooney occupied a deep-lying role against Newcastle, which allowed him to exploit gaps behind Danny Welbeck and Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez.

"Danny Welbeck is in the same position as Javier in that they are not the first team choices at the moment," Ferguson said. "That doesn't mean to say it will stay that way because competition is always healthy and them being the kind of young lads they are will be desperate to establish themselves. That is what competition is. We had it in 1999."

The 26-year-old Rooney was very effective against Newcastle, although whether it is a policy Ferguson would be prepared to persevere with in the Premier League is open to debate.

Rooney is not complaining though.

After being dropped against Fulham, then getting trodden on by Hugo Rodallega when he was finally introduced, it feels like the season is starting again.

"It does feel like the start of my season," he said. "It was a freak injury and whilst it wasn't too bad, I had to be careful when I came back training and in games because it could open up again. I am glad to be over it and back playing."

Now Ferguson must decide whether to finally partner Rooney with van Persie or keep faith with Shinji Kagawa, who joined the Dutchman in United's starting line-up at Liverpool last week.

"Wayne has had a great training program in the time he was off. He was never out of the gym to begin with," said Ferguson. "In the last two weeks he gradually got into the football part and started getting his timing back. Now he has to get through that period when he needs game time. It is like van Persie because Robin has still got a bit to do."

Without a win at Old Trafford since 1989, Tottenham are the kind of team United usually relish hosting.

Rooney has also bagged seven goals against the north London outfit, which gives him hope he will have a good day.

"We always seem to do well against Tottenham," he said. "Hopefully that will continue," he said. "But they are a good team with great players. We know it will be tough and we will need to be at our best to beat them."

Ferguson confirmed winger Antonio Valencia was "doubtful" for the with Tottenham after picking up an ankle injury during the win at Liverpool.

The United boss said young defender Scott Wootton would be part of his squad as backup to Ferdinand and Jonny Evans after impressing against Newcastle in midweek.

Darren Fletcher, who completed the full 90 minutes against Newcastle as he battles to combat a chronic bowel complaint, is unlikely to start as he is being saved for Tuesday's Champions League encounter with CFR Cluj.

"He may get a place on the bench and he could go to Romania next week," Ferguson said.

Information from Press Association was used in this report.

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