Rooney faces old club

LONDON - Though Wayne Rooney is being feted as one of the greats of the game after his San Siro Champions League master class, the adulation will come to a shuddering halt at Goodison Park tomorrow.

Rooney's double in Manchester United's 3-2 win over AC Milan took his seasonal tally to a career-best 25 and had manager Alex Ferguson purring that he was now right up among the world's elite strikers.

England boss Fabio Capello also knows that the national team's World Cup prospects rely squarely on Rooney being fit and on form in South Africa.

When Rooney wears white in June even Everton fans will cheer him on but tomorrow, wearing red, the man who electrified Goodison Park as a 16-year-old will get a different kind of welcome when Everton host United in the Premier League.

It is almost six years since Rooney left Everton to join United but, judging by the pages of the Liverpool Echo in recent days, the scars left by his "betrayal" have yet to heal.

While Rooney's role is central to Everton's fans, United are more interested in the bigger picture as they seek to close Chelsea's one-point Premier League lead.

They have lost to The Toffees in the league only once at home or away in the past 15 years but will have to work for their points against an Everton side who did them a favour earlier this month by beating Chelsea 2-1.

The Londoners visit Wolverhampton Wanderers later in the day when a repeat of their 4-0 Stamford Bridge success in November would be a welcome return to winning ways.

Third-placed Arsenal, who conceded what skipper Cesc Fabregas called "two schoolboy goals" in their 2-1 Champions League defeat at Porto on Wednesday, cannot afford any similar slips if they are to maintain their slim title hopes.

The battle for fourth remains tight with only three points separating Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa, all of whom play on Sunday.

City face Liverpool, Spurs are at Wigan Athletic and Villa at home to Burnley. - Reuters