Everton boo-boys spur me on, warns Rooney
Wayne Rooney is expecting the usual chorus of boos and abuse when Manchester United face his old club Everton in Sunday's FA Cup semi-final, but the England striker has warned that any attempts from the crowd to intimidate him will backfire.
There is still much acrimony surrounding Rooney's £27m move to United back in 2004, with Evertonians angry that the player who once wore a 'once a Blue always a Blue' t-shirt quit his boyhood club for Old Trafford.
The 23-year-old, who was at Wembley as an Everton fan when the club beat Manchester United in the 1995 FA Cup final, said: '`It still means something that it is Everton.
''It is the team I grew up supporting. It makes it a big day for me, although the most important thing is for United to reach the final.''
He also told The Sun:''All the stick I get makes me want to do better. But it doesn't bother me that much now because I expect it whenever I play against Everton.''
Rooney has featured in two FA Cup finals since joining United, but picked up losers medals on both occasions after defeat against Arsenal and Chelsea.
In addition, the England striker was forced to pull out of United's triumphant Carling Cup encounter with Tottenham Hotspur in February after picking up a virus on the eve of the game.
''I missed the Carling Cup final when we last got to Wembley, so hopefully I will be part of the team that gets us to another final on Sunday,'' said Rooney.
An FA Cup win would augment Rooney's impressive haul of honours which already includes two Premier League titles, and wins in the Champions League, League Cup and Club World Cup.
Meanwhile Everton's South African midfielder Steven Pienaar is hoping memories of the Merseyside club's win over United at Wembley in 1995 will inspire the club to success on Sunday.
''This game will definitely be one of the biggest games I have played in,'' said Pienaar. ''I have been involved in a lot of important games at my two previous clubs but I believe this one will also go down in the history books for Everton and I'm looking forward to it.
''When I was at Borussia Dortmund, we used to play every weekend in front of 83,000, so this occasion will not concern me. At Ajax, we played AC Milan in the Champions League at the San Siro, which was also pretty impressive. But, for me, this is like a normal game, it is just that it's a semi-final.''
Despite such confidence, Pienaar accepts this is a tough challenge for Everton against the current Premier League leaders and Champions League semi-finalists.
''Manchester United are not only the top team in England but in Europe also. But sometimes a side has a dip in form and in the last few games they have not done so well, but they can turn it around in a second. We just have to go out and play our own game and not worry about them.''
Pienaar's team-mate Leighton Baines believes Everton can take heart from their two league games against United this season.
He said: ''We have acquitted ourselves well. We drew at Goodison Park and we were only beaten by a late penalty at Old Trafford. We always feel we are capable of nicking a goal, so we have a chance.
''We have done well against them a couple of times this season and hopefully we can do the same again.''