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By ESPN Staff

Rooney close to return, Clough talks up Utd haul

Sir Alex Ferguson must decide whether to risk Wayne Rooney on the bench for Manchester United's Premier League encounter with Fulham on Wednesday.

As expected, Rooney sat out the 4-1 FA Cup win over Derby at Pride Park with a hamstring injury he picked up against Wigan a month ago.

However, with the Champions League knock-out round clash at the San Siro against Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan looming on February 24, Ferguson has the choice of either putting Rooney on the bench this week, or keeping him back for Saturday's meeting with Blackburn.

''It might be Wednesday for Wayne but if not, definitely Saturday,'' said Ferguson.

While there is not much of a comparison between Derby and Inter, Ferguson at least knows some of his key men are in top form, specifically Ryan Giggs, who had a hand in every United goal as they booked a quarter-final trip to either Swansea or Fulham.

It means the Red Devils are just three victories away from winning England's oldest cup competition, having already booked a Carling Cup final clash with Tottenham at the start of next month.

Well placed to complete a Premier League hat-trick as well, United are still on course for five trophies after already claiming the FIFA Club World Cup.

''If anyone can do it they can,'' claimed Derby boss Nigel Clough. ''If United had played Arsenal, Liverpool or Chelsea in that form they could have put four past them, they were that good.

''We have played against them three times this season now and this was the best they played.''

Nani and Darron Gibson effectively sealed victory for United before half-time, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Danny Welbeck wrapping up a 4-1 win.

And Ferguson confirmed Gibson had booked a place in United's line-up to face Spurs at Wembley with his display.

''Darron did really well,'' said Ferguson. ''He has got into the Carling Cup final team with that performance. He has played in every round so he deserves it.''

An FA Cup winner five times already, Ferguson now awaits the outcome of Fulham's rematch with Swansea at Craven Cottage in 10 days' time scenting a sixth triumph.

''You always hope for a home draw,'' he said. ''But that tie is not finished yet. We are one step away from Wembley if you look at the semi-final, so that is a big incentive for us.''


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