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Rooney eyes return to form against Toon

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney has fired an ominous warning to Newcastle ahead of their Boxing Day clash, claiming he will "relish" the opportunity to atone for his "off day" against Swansea.

Rooney failed to fire in last Sunday's 1-1 draw at the Liberty Stadium, proving uncharacteristically wasteful in possession and ineffective in front of goal. One stray pass in particular, which should have teed up Javier Hernandez for a winner but was easily intercepted by Chico Flores, was the final straw for furious United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, and Rooney was hauled off shortly after.

The England striker now views the packed fixture list over the holiday season as a chance to play himself back into form - starting with Newcastle's visit to Old Trafford on Wednesday.

"I could feel it [was not going to be my day] on the pitch," Rooney said. "Some days you have an off day I could feel that and I couldn't complain at being substituted.

"I think the thing about football, and especially over the Christmas period, is that you have games and this game has gone for me and it is certainly not one I will remember, but I will relish the next one.

"The position we are in at the minute, it is a great opportunity to make that gap at the top of the table even bigger."

United hold a four-point lead at the top of the Premier League table after their first draw of the season. And Rooney is targeting back-to-back wins against Newcastle and West Brom as they look to break clear of title rivals Manchester City.

"We are still in a good position with two home games coming up," Rooney added. "We need to make sure we take maximum points from them. We know it's early days and there is a long way to go, but we are in a healthy position at the moment so we need to try and keep on."

Newcastle, who finished fifth last season, have found results harder to come by this time round and currently languish in 14th place in the table. Ferguson does not believe Pardew's men have become a bad side, but feels increased scrutiny of their style of play and some key injuries have hindered their cause.

"The second time around clubs are starting to analyse them a little bit differently, plus the fact more importantly they have had some injuries," Ferguson said.

"(Yohan) Cabaye is out until the new year, (Ryan) Taylor is out until next year. He has had one or two important players injured and that does make a difference when you don't have as strong a squad as the likes of ourselves, City and Chelsea.

"I am not entirely surprised but I am surprised how low down the table they are."

Information from the Press Association was used in this report.

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