Early Doors

Rooney begins long road to redemption

Early Doors

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In the city where Alex Ferguson grew up, the Manchester United manager will now be hoping he has seen his star striker born again.

Wayne Rooney made his first start for United in two months but, with all that has gone on in that time, documented fanatically on the tabloid front pages, it feels like a lot longer ago.

The days when he was a post-World Cup pariah, let alone scoring for fun and winning every individual award going, seem like moments in the career of a different player altogether.

After returning from his Oregon boot camp/sponsor marketing opportunity trimmed down and refreshed, he got the moment he visualised would send him on the road to redemption when he scored the winning penalty against Rangers three minutes from time.

United's newly lean, mean, set-piece scoring machine celebrated ecstatically after firing home the spot-kick, which ensured United's progression from Champions League Group C.

He may have had a mixed reception upon his return to action at Old Trafford last weekend, but at least he can count on one fan's affection. A pitch invader ran on to the Ibrox turf and leapt on the prostrate Rooney, locking him in an unbreakable embrace not seen on the field of play since Terry Phelan held on to Ray Houghton for dear life at the Giants Stadium in 1994.

It is, of course, going to take a lot more than a mediocre performance and one conversion from 12 yards to win over the majority of the United faithful.

The expression of his desire to leave the club will not be easily forgotten, not least for the way it highlighted the very real problems the club can expect to have in competing financially with their rivals as long as the Glazers are in charge.

At least Rooney is aware enough to reference the fact that he has plenty of work to do if he is going to win back the hearts and minds of United's fans.

"Not all the fans are going to want to be singing my name all the time and I fully accept that," he said. "But I have to go out and prove to the fans I am here to stay and I want to work.

"Only I can say how I feel, and I know 100 per cent it was nothing to do with money."

In purely footballing terms, a return of just two goals from eight games so far this season - both penalties - is a poor one.

Rooney now has three matches against teams in the bottom half of the table - Blackburn, West Ham and Blackpool - before a trio of fixtures versus top opposition, in Valencia, Arsenal and Chelsea give way to the Christmas period.  

Once he has got through those games, we will know a lot more about the effect of Rooney's hiatus.

- - -

Whilst Rooney has to deal with the heavy weight of expectation, Tottenham continue to exceed those placed upon them in the Champions League.

A swaggering 3-0 win over Werder Bremen at White Hart Lane last night has booked them a place in the knockout stage in their first season in the competition.

This time two years ago, Harry Redknapp was a month into the Spurs job. The team had just dragged themselves out of the relegation zone after spending the early part of the campaign rooted to the bottom of the table.

Now, here they are, through to the knockout stage with a game to spare, qualifying before local rivals Arsenal, who they beat away from home just four days beforehand.

Seven of the players who started against Bremen last night were strugglers under Juande Ramos, but now they are playing in a bold and confident manner which has helped transform the club's fortunes.

Redknapp has bolstered his reputation to the point where he is now the man everyone - including himself - expects to succeed Fabio Capello in 2012.

The latest ploy in the long-running job interview for the FA role, which he seems to be conducting in public, was to give a good old-fashioned rallying cry to Our Boys Down Under.

That it was also a little bit of extra promotion for his son's employers, owned by the same media giant that runs the newspaper his own column is printed in, was just a little bonus, of course.

However, there is a sting in this Tottenham tale. Redknapp is due in Southwark Crown Court today for a hearing that will determine whether or not he and former Portsmouth colleagues Milan Mandaric and Peter Storrie will face trial for tax evasion next spring.

It's a timely reminder of the baggage the man carries with him and, despite the lack of coverage as the media focuses instead on Bale, Modric and co's wonderful European run, the outcome of this hearing could have a major effect on the future of both Spurs and England.

If the matter is put to rest today then he can continue to enjoy the upward trajectory his career is on it its latter stages. Should the case rumble on and his team's campaign be affected for the season run-in, however, the FA might be scared off whatever the outcome.

Rumours that his ace in the hole is to threaten media silence if the case is taken any further are, at this stage, unconfirmed.

- - -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I had one cross. Apart from that I had nothing and, as a striker, that's starvation, that's famine. What am I supposed to work on? The game plan was for me to stay as the longest person away from everyone and try to hit me on the diagonal. But we weren't even doing that. So that went out of the window and we didn't have Plan B. When we changed to 4-4-2, I felt comfortable but then got taken off. They'd rather I stood up there on my own, trying to make nothing happen. I'm deflated and we need to change this." - Carlton Cole's withering assessment of West Ham's tactics in the 3-0 at Liverpool on Saturday. Still, if you'd scored one goal in your last 18 appearances, you'd be looking around for excuses too.

FOREIGN VIEW: "The 10 countries are agreed to give the vote to Spain. Spain for South Americans is like the mother country, and on top of that we have a more than friendly relationship with the Royal Spanish (Football) Federation which is really one more of us. We feel in Spain like in our own home." - CONMEBOL's general secretary Eduardo Deluca pledges the South American block vote to Spain and Portugal's bid to host the 2018 World Cup. Still, perhaps England's bid can expect the same level of support from CONCACAF chief Jack Warner. Ah... maybe not.

COMING UP: We'll be rounding up the week's European Cup action with our Champions League barometer and Team of the Week.

But, before all that, you can get answers to all the burning questions from the first day of the first Ashes Test (Just what was Strauss thinking? Does anyone fit the term 'mongrel' better than Peter Siddle? Can we just start again tomorrow?) with Cow Corner's breakfast webchat.

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