London - Wayne Rooney made his long-awaited
return from a knee injury on Monday as the Manchester United captain featured
for the club's Under-21 team after two months on the side-lines.
Rooney played for 61 minutes against
Middlesbrough at Old Trafford in his first outing since February 13 as United
manager Louis van Gaal watched from the stands.
Van Gaal had declared Rooney could
"maybe" feature in United's FA Cup quarter-final replay at West Ham
on Wednesday if the England forward came through the reserve fixture without
The Dutchman now has to decide if just over
an hour's work is enough for Rooney to prove his fitness.
The 30-year-old showed a willingness to get
on the ball and registered three attempts on goal, firing a long-range
half-volley at Middlesbrough goalkeeper Joe Fryer before striking his other two
efforts over the crossbar.
Rooney's return for the final weeks of the
season is a significant boost to van Gaal, whose side have scored just five
times in their past eight fixtures, with Ashley Young playing up front in the
second half of a 3-0 defeat Tottenham on Sunday.
With six games remaining, fifth placed
United trail four points behind fourth placed Manchester City in the race to
qualify for the Champions League via a top four finish in the Premier League.
Rooney also has the additional incentive of
ensuring he is fully fit and in form as he looks ahead to Euro 2016.
The England captain will want to cement his
place in Roy Hodgson's starting line-up in France after watching Tottenham's
Harry Kane and Leicester's Jamie Vardy continue to impress for club and country
while he has been out.