Rooney ready to force his way back into contention

Wayne Rooney wrestles in jest with Manchester United's Portuguese scout Ricardo Formosinho. The United and England captain is also wrestling with the perception that he is no longer a regular starter for either team.
Wayne Rooney wrestles in jest with Manchester United's Portuguese scout Ricardo Formosinho. The United and England captain is also wrestling with the perception that he is no longer a regular starter for either team.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Wayne Rooney has insisted he has still got "a lot of football left" amid suggestions his days as a regular starting player for Manchester United could be coming to a close.

The United and England captain, who made his name as a clinical striker, has been a substitute in five of the last six matches for club and country, including United's goal-less draw away to arch-rivals Liverpool on Tuesday.

But he has no time for suggestions that he is now a 25 games -a-season player, insisting he wants to force his way back into the starting line-ups of both United manager Jose Mourinho and England interim boss Gareth Southgate.

"I'd like to think I can play every game, but obviously it's the manger's decision and I respect the decision," he said. "I'll be ready when needed.

"Not in my mind (do I think I've reached the point when I accept only getting 25 games a season). Maybe in other people's minds but not mine.

"I'm 31 next week. I've got a lot of football left. Of course I want to play. I just have to keep working and trying to get in the team and my chances will come, I know that. And it is up to me to take them."

Rooney has described United's draw with Liverpool as the start of a defining period that could shape a Premier League title challenge.

United became the first side to take a point from Anfield this season and they host Fenerbahce in the Europa League today, with another demanding away fixture in the Premier League at Chelsea on Sunday.

The Red Devils also face a home clash with Manchester City in the League Cup next Wednesday.

Remaining hard to beat and recording positive results at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge, insists Rooney, would provide the platform for United to overcome an inconsistent start under their new manager and emerge as title contenders.

"Liverpool was the toughest game before the Europa League and then we've got Chelsea and City. It is good for us to have those games in this period. If we can come out of them with positive results, it can be the start of something for us this season," he said.

"I do think we'll be challenging this season. We've still got that belief and it is even stronger after working with this manager and the players over the last few months.

"I think we've got a fantastic squad that is ready and capable of challenging."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2016, with the headline 'Rooney ready to force his way back into contention'. Print Edition | Subscribe