Rooney regains scoring touch

Wayne Rooney has regained his scoring touch, giving Manchester United a lift as it faces Scottish rival Celtic on Tuesday.

updated: February 25, 2007 11:34 IST
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Wayne Rooney has regained his scoring touch, giving Manchester United a lift as it faces Scottish rival Celtic with a chance of qualifying for the next round of the Champions League. United's surprise 1-0 loss to FC Copenhagen two weeks ago ended the Red Devils' perfect record in Group F. So the second "Battle of Britain" has gained greater importance. Alex Ferguson's team needs only a draw in Glasgow on Tuesday to clinch a spot in the next round. A victory will mean United wins the group. Celtic and United will both advance if the Scottish champion wins and the match between Benfica and Copenhagen ends in a draw. United leads the group with nine points, followed by Celtic on six, and Benfica and Copenhagen with four. United beat Celtic 3-2 at Old Trafford on September 13. Rooney didn't score in that game, starting a 10-match run without a goal. But the England striker is now back to his best with three goals in his last two games. Rooney broke a yearlong scoring drought for England in the 1-1 draw with the Netherlands last Wednesday, then scored twice as United rallied to beat Sheffield United 2-1 in the Premier League on Saturday. "That's a great boost for me," Rooney said. "Hopefully I can keep scoring, but we are also spreading the goals around." It's a big week for United - five days after the Celtic match, the Red Devils play two-time defending Premier League champion Chelsea in a top-of-the-table clash. United leads the Blues by three points in the standings. "We had to show great courage and determination to come from behind against Sheffield United, but now we have to concentrate on Celtic," Rooney said. "We have to do a job there and make sure we qualify for the next stage." Bragging rights Bragging rights are as much at stake as qualification. Ferguson coached Celtic manager Gordon Strachan at Scottish club Aberdeen - it won the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1983 - and in his first three years at Manchester United. And Ferguson once played for Celtic's rival Rangers. Strachan doesn't mind that his side is the underdog. "That's how it will be viewed in the footballing world and we would see ourselves as that, in terms of a genuine bet," he said. "But there is also a genuine feeling we can win the game." Celtic is cruising in the Scottish Premier League, with a lead of 18 points and an 11-game winning streak. Strachan is hoping team spirit will overcome the lack of big-name stars. "I think we all accept they have better players as a whole than we've got," he said. "But what we won't accept is the idea that we can't beat them. We can." The final rotation for the group is on December 6, when Celtic will be at Copenhagen and United hosts Benfica. (AP)