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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Rooney determined to emulate Liverpool

Wayne Rooney is anxious for Manchester United to claim bragging rights over Liverpool and win the Champions League.

The England striker has been hurting for the past three years after Rafael Benitez delivered the trophy to Anfield following a remarkable victory against AC Milan.

Now Rooney will get his chance on Wednesday in Moscow when United face Chelsea in the first all-English showdown in the final of Europe's top club competition.

It has been a long wait for the 22-year-old, born in Liverpool and raised as an Everton supporter.

He said: 'It is difficult when you see one of your rivals winning things. When Liverpool took the trophy, it was hard to take.

'Because they haven't really been challenging for the league in the last few years, they've had chances to rest players before big Champions League games and that helped them.

'By Liverpool winning the Champions League, it's made us want to win it even more.'

Rooney gets great pleasure teasing his pals from the Kop.

One such scenario unfolded nine years ago when United won the European Cup with a famous last-gasp victory against Bayern Munich in Barcelona.

He explained: 'A few of us watched the match and most of my mates were Liverpool fans.

'It was just me and another pal who were Everton supporters. We wanted United to win and obviously they (my mates) didn't.

'When they won, I was really happy and we were winding the Liverpool fans up.

'I remember listening to the radio after the game and they were speaking to a lot of fans around Manchester.

'The atmosphere there sounded brilliant, so hopefully I can be involved in something like that this year.'

That was the last time United won the trophy - they also lifted it in 1968.

Forty years on from Sir Matt Busby's triumph and 50 years after the Munich air disaster, the weight of history hangs heavily in the air.

Rooney, however, is inspired by the past, not fazed by it.

He said: 'I don't think it will be a burden, we just need to go out there and try and enjoy ourselves.

'If we enjoy playing, I'm sure we will do well. If we go out there thinking a bit negative then it becomes harder.

'The players are well educated in the history of the club. When you walk around the training ground, you see the players from 1958, 1968 all the way through to today.'

Rooney weighed in with 18 goals in a season that saw United retain their Premier League title.

While he was widely applauded for his work ethic and team play, he insists there is room for improvement.

He said: 'I can score a few more goals, possibly with my left foot and a some more headers. I keep working on all different things, my passing, my fitness and scoring.

'I've changed my game a little bit. Instead of playing in the hole or off one forward, I've mainly been the striker looking to get in behind. I've enjoyed doing it this year - to be honest a lot more than I thought I would. It has brought me a few goals in different games.'

Led by manager Sir Alex Ferguson, United will fly out to Russia tomorrow and Rooney is desperate for the match to get under way.

He said: 'It's a horrible feeling waiting for the final. I'd like to go to bed tonight and wake up on Wednesday. It's a bit like Christmas when you're a kid, so I just can't wait.

'I've been playing FIFA on X-Box with my mates. My girlfriend's not too happy with me, but it keeps me occupied. I've played in three cup finals, winning one and losing two, so hopefully I can even that out.'

Rooney has urged Cristiano Ronaldo to stay and continue their prolific partnership.

'I hope the partnership will continue for years. Ronaldo is a great player and it will be brilliant if we can keep him at the club for as long as possible. He's an unbelievable player,' Rooney told reporters.

'What he's done for United in the last few years is brilliant and it makes you work hard.

'For Ronaldo to score those goals is helping the team. I've got no problem if he scores 60 goals in a season and I don't get anywhere near that,' added the England striker who has struck 18 times this term.

'Exhausted' Tevez looking forward to break

Carlos Tevez admits he is 'physically exhausted' after a tremendous season with Manchester United.

The Argentina striker has played 47 games for United since joining from West Ham in August, netting 19 goals as he helped fire the team to the brink of a league and Champions League double.

However, Tevez admits his tiredness could see him sit out his side's World Cup qualifier against old enemies Brazil, on June 18.

'After the Champions League final, I will need some weeks to rest,' Tevez told Argentinian newspaper Clarin. 'After the Copa America in Venezuela (last year), I came to Manchester United and haven't stopped playing. I'm physically exhausted.

'I will talk to Coco (Argentina coach Alfio Basile) to see if it is for the best that I join the national team.'

First Tevez has the Champions League final to think about as United take on Chelsea on Wednesday, looking to add that trophy to the Barclays Premier League title they lifted a week ago.

The former Boca Juniors and Corinthians star was delighted to get his hands on a trophy once again and has vowed to do everything possible to ensure it is United who return from Moscow victorious.

'I celebrated so much last week because it's been a while since I celebrated a title,' added Tevez. 'I was already losing the habit which I loved.

'I hadn't been a champion since 2005, when I lifted the Brazilian title with Corinthians. Moreover, it's my first title in Europe and that doesn't happen every day.

'I called my uncle, who suffers from cancer, from the stadium. He was very emotional, as was I obviously. I know that these are little moments of happiness that are very good for him and that gives me the strength to continue.

'I promised him that we will do everything to win the Champions League. Chelsea have a great team, they attack a lot and have a lot of players who head very well, but we have our skills too.'

Tevez also has his sights firmly set on winning an international title with Argentina, especially after losing the last two Copa America finals to Brazil, in 2004 and 2007.

'It would be wonderful,' he said. 'Among all the dreams I have, winning a title with the national team is the biggest in my mind.

'I give my all for every shirt but the blue and white (of Argentina) is the most dear to me.

'I have been fortunate, I have celebrated titles with Boca, Corinthians and now Manchester. What is still missing is one with the national team.'