x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Wayne Rooney: 'We relish this part of the season'

Striker believes United will hit top form now the end of season is in sight, while Manchester City will not appeal Mario Balotelli's ban and Everton agree to sell Diniyar Bilyaletdinov to Spartak Moscow.

Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney, left, battles with Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny, in Sunday’s match. United face Chelsea and Liverpool in the Premier League in February.
Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney, left, battles with Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny, in Sunday’s match. United face Chelsea and Liverpool in the Premier League in February.

Wayne Rooney is confident Manchester United will start to hit top form now they can spot where the season ends.

United embarked on a tough sequence of fixtures, which their manager Sir Alex Ferguson says will determine their hopes of landing silverware this term, by beating Arsenal on Sunday.

Now they head to Rooney's native Merseyside to face Liverpool in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday knowing Kenny Dalglish's team must also visit Old Trafford in the Premier League, with trips to Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur on either side.

Already trailing leaders Manchester City by three points, it is a tough ask of United just to stay in contention.

However, now in his seventh season at Old Trafford, Rooney has been around long enough to know it is also the time of year when the defending champions tend to reach their peak.

"We relish this part of the season," he said. "Once we get into the new year we can see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. Every game is massive and we don't want to be dropping points.

"But I always feel we are at our best around now because we can see the end of the season and that there are trophies there to be won."

Rooney said that the way the fixtures had turned out could also be a massive benefit for a squad that have been battling such a lengthy injury list for so long.

"It's been quite an unusual period in that we've only had one game a week," the England forward said.

A trip to Liverpool is always a test for Rooney, who was introduced from the bench during the stormy Premier League clash between the north-west rivals in October that is best remembered for the racism row between Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez.

That selection decision is unlikely to be repeated by Ferguson this weekend. It is widely anticipated Nani will be ruled out with a foot injury, leaving Ferguson with just one orthodox winger. However, Phil Jones may be available if he can shrug off the injury that forced him to be substituted at Emirates Stadium.

Everton have agreed a fee to sell winger Diniyar Bilyaletdinov to Spartak Moscow, the Premier League club have announced.

The moves marks a return to his home country for the Russian 26-year-old, who moved to Goodison Park from Lokomotiv Moscow in August 2009.

He has made 77 appearances for the club since, scoring nine goals in the process, but has never fully settled and made a regular starting berth his own on Merseyside.

Manchester City confirmed yesterday that they would not appeal Mario Balotelli's four-match suspension, and the Italian striker began the punishment by missing last night's Carling Cup match against Liverpool.