Rooney aims to break duck

2012-10-19 18:02

London - In prolific goalscoring form for England over the past week, Wayne Rooney will look to finally get off the mark for Manchester United this season when his team hosts Stoke in the Premier League on Saturday.

Rooney is without a goal in six matches for United, his plight not helped by being dropped into an attacking midfield role to accommodate new signing Robin van Persie.

It's been a different story on the international stage, with his two goals against San Marino on Friday and another against Poland to take his tally for England to 32 — fifth on the all-time list.

Friday marked 10 years to the day that Rooney, then only 16, signaled his arrival in English football with a stunning first Premier League goal — a memorable 30-yard winner in the last minute for Everton against Arsenal.

And he hasn't lost any of the exuberance and unflagging work ethic that made him standout as a star in the making as a teenager, working hard in his defensive duties in recent wins over Cluj in the Champions League and Newcastle in the league.

He also set up four goals in those two games but adding to his 144 league goals will be the priority as second-place United looks to break down a robust Stoke backline and keep the pressure on unbeaten leader Chelsea.

"We've got the jolly green giants coming to play against us tomorrow — the biggest team in Europe," United manager Alex Ferguson said of Stoke's tall players. "You can get yourself in a tangle about that because they are a handful at set-piece plays and long throw-ins, but you can't make a terror for yourself."

With left winger Ashley Young fit after two weeks out with a knee injury, Ferguson has an embarrassment of riches in attack as his side looks to pounce on any slip-up Chelsea may make in Saturday's early kickoff against Tottenham.

Chelsea is four points clear of United after an unbeaten start to the campaign that has seen the team win six of its seven matches.

The European champions have already beaten Arsenal away this season and face another short trip to north London this weekend when they visit Tottenham, which has won its last four league matches under former Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas.

Football, however, has been overshadowed by off-the-pitch matters at Chelsea this week, with John Terry deciding not to challenge a four-match ban given to him for racially abusing an opponent in a league game last October.

The match at Tottenham will be the first game of the defender's suspension and Chelsea manager Roberto di Matteo refused to confirm whether the club's internal disciplinary action meant stripping Terry of the captaincy.

"This is a very big week for Chelsea ... and I've not been asked one question about football," Di Matteo said.

"He has realized that on that day, he fell below his standards and the club's standards. For that he has received a ban and a fine and more action from the club. He is being punished for what he has said. We have all made mistakes in our life before."

Chelsea have failed to win in its last six Premier League visits to White Hart Lane and any more dropped points would give the chasing pack — led by United, Everton and defending champion Manchester City — an opportunity to close the gap.

Third-place City travels to West Bromwich Albion, which is sixth, and Everton hosts last-place Queens Park Rangers — one of three teams still without a victory — on Sunday.

Sunderland hosts Newcastle in a northeast derby in Sunday's other match, with the rest of the games on Saturday.

Liverpool, with only six points from seven matches, seeks its third home league win of 2012 when it plays Reading, with manager Brendan Rodgers facing a striker shortage with Italy forward Fabio Borini ruled out this week for three months with a broken foot.

Arsenal visits Norwich, while it's also: Fulham vs. Aston Villa; Swansea vs. Wigan; and West Ham vs. Southampton.