Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney: The ‘massive’ one was against Norwich City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Wayne Rooney insisted it had not been tough to block out the glamour of tomorrow's 'special' date with Real Madrid ahead of Saturday's comprehensive win over Norwich at Old Trafford.
Only after the win did United's players allow their minds to drift towards their glamour Champions League second leg with Real.
Despite being 12 points clear at the top of the Premier League before Saturday, Sir Alex Ferguson demanded no loss of focus or status – which Rooney felt was underlined by his team selection.
'It hasn't been hard not thinking about Tuesday,' said Rooney. 'Norwich was a massive game for us and we wanted to extend the gap at the top of the league.
'The manager put a lot of experienced players out and made us aware it was more important.
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'But Tuesday is going to be a special night. It is probably the two biggest clubs in the world and something we are all looking forward to.'
Ferguson certainly is. And judging by his team selection against City had decided to remove Kagawa from his Madrid starting line-up.
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Whether the Japan midfielder's outstanding contribution has changed his mind is open to question.
However, after a difficult few months when he has struggled to regain the form he showed prior to suffering a knee injury in October, Kagawa has underlined why Ferguson bought him from Borussia Dortmund in the summer.
'Shinji was fantastic,' said Rooney. 'He keeps putting himself in positions where he can get a shot at goal or play someone in. He is great with his runs too. If you can pick him out he is cruel with his finishes.
'Goals-wise it was his best performance but he has played other games well as well without scoring.'
That Kagawa responded to a question of how his hat-trick will go down in Japan by saying 'it will probably be huge news in Japan but in Japan they are looking forward to the Real game' merely shows what expectation surrounds that eagerly-anticipated duel between Ferguson and Jose Mourinho.
Real's use of Manchester City's Etihad Stadium for their pre-match training session merely adds another twist in a tie filled with them.
Much may depend upon whether Phil Jones recovers from the ankle injury that kept him out of Saturday's game because without him, Ferguson does not have an obvious alternative to screen his defence.
It might be a job for Ryan Giggs, hence his omission from the squad to face Norwich, denying the Welshman his 1,000th senior appearance.