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Europa League round of 16 draw

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By ESPN Staff

Ferdinand backs 'awesome' Rooney to sparkle

Rio Ferdinand has backed his Manchester United and England team-mate Wayne Rooney to step out of Cristiano Ronaldo's shadow and terrorise defences across the continent this season.

The 22-year-old was forced to take a supporting role last season as the Portuguese winger's 42 goals made him very much the leading man at Old Trafford.

Red Devils manager Sir Alex Ferguson has already admitted this summer that Rooney's development has been hampered by the need to play him out of position at times since his big-money move from Everton in 2004.

However Ferdinand, United's captain last season in the absence of Gary Neville, believes the Liverpudlian's contribution to the team has been under-rated.

And if Ferguson makes good on his vow to play Rooney in his favoured position more often from now on, the centre-half is confident the striker will soon be the main man.

'We've got to wait to see what will happen in the transfer market with regard to signing a new striker, but what Wayne did last season was staggering,' Ferdinand told The People.

'He had to take the responsibility of leading the line on his shoulders and he was awesome.'

He added: 'He played out of position a lot. He played on the left and sacrificed himself so many times for the team.

'I know the manager wants to see Wayne playing in his more accustomed position, just off the front.

'Maybe that will happen if we sign a striker and then you'll see how dangerous he can be.'

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