I want to lead United and England - Rooney

Wayne Rooney is revelling in his new-found role as a leader and has set his sights on becoming captain for club and country.

Sir Alex Ferguson has hailed Rooney as the elder statesman of Manchester United’s vibrant young side, while the striker is already firmly established as England’s most influential player.

Rooney has started the new season with a flourish, scoring nine goals in six club games and two more for England, and said he is now ready to take on the responsibility of being captain.

“That would be a great honour,” said Rooney. “I’ve captained both on one-off occasions. Obviously to get the two jobs full-time would be a great honour for me.”

Ferguson believes Rooney, who turns 26 this month, has matured as a player and is reaching his peak, becoming the man United’s new generation of players look up to.

“It’s obviously great for the manager to say that,” said Rooney. “But I feel like I’ve always trained the same, always worked hard and played the same on the pitch.

“If I’m not happy with something, I let it be known, so I think it’s good for the younger players to see that and to know that you still care and still want to win.

“Obviously we’ve got a lot of young players in the team. Players will come in and look at you, see what you’re doing and how you are on the training pitch and on the pitch.”

Rooney has missed United’s last two games with a tight hamstring but will be reunited with strike partner Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez against Norwich on Saturday, as the Mexico forward also returning after injury.

Ferguson believes Rooney and Chicharito can enjoy a prolific partnership this season and tipped them to get close to the 52 goals knocked in by Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole in the 1998-99 Treble-winning season.

“I expect Hernandez to score 25 and over, because he’s got something in that box,” said Fergie.

“Wayne has had a fantastic start to the season, so the capability is there. But they haven’t played a full season together yet.

"Yorke and Cole scoring 52 between them was exceptional, because Yorkie had just joined us. I think that season Yorkie was probably one of the best strikers in Europe. He and Andy just hit it off immediately.

“Can Wayne and Javier get 52? I’d like to hope that but you never know. It’s a tough league.”

Rooney, speaking at a launch event for FIFA 12, claimed United’s great strength was ultimately in having so many different options in attack.

“I think everyone offers something a bit different,” he said.

“Hernandez stays really high and looks to run in behind and that creates a lot more space for me in behind the opposition midfield.

“Michael Owen varies, he plays high or comes shorter depending on who he’s playing with.

“Dimitar Berbatov likes to play a bit deeper and try and get on the ball, which means I have to play a bit higher.

“Me and Danny Welbeck sort of switch it up, one stays high and the other plays deep to try and change it round, so there’s great options for the manager.”

Rooney reckons this season’s title race will be a straight fight between United, neighbours Manchester City and Chelsea, and said retaining the Premier League crown was his main goal, ahead of winning the Champions League, despite last season’s disappointment of losing to Barcelona in the final.

“They [City] are obviously rivals and they’ll be challenging for the league, there’s no doubt about that," he said.

“I think between them and Chelsea they’ll be our two closest rivals and I think just behind them maybe Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham.

“It’s going to be a tough league and everyone will be going for that first place so we need to make sure we stay on our toes.

“We look at the trophies and the competitions we’re in and it’s so difficult to compete in all of the tournaments so you need to be realistic and try and win one or two.

“Personally, I’d like to win the Premier League again, because it’s such a great feeling to win that. But then we hope we can do well in the Champions League as well - get to the final and see what happens in that.”

Rooney admitted the first Manchester derby of the season, at Old Trafford on October 23 - the day before his birthday - is going to be a huge occasion.

The striker - whose spectacular overhead kick won the same fixture last season - said Ferguson’s side were confident of coming out on top.

“It’s going to be a massive game for both clubs and the city and I think it will be a really close game and a difficult game,” said Rooney.

“But with us being at home, we’re confident we can go into that game and get the three points.”

* Wayne Rooney appears in EA SPORTS FIFA 12, out NOW. For more information, visit facebook.com/EASPORTSFIFA and youtube.com/EASPORTSfootball



October 17 2006: Manchester United 3 Copenhagen 0 - Rooney skippered United for the first time in a routine Champions League group stage win over the Danish side.

December 12 2007: Roma 1 Manchester United 1 - Rooney was again handed the armband by Alex Ferguson, who chose to give his young and fringe players a game because United were already through to the knockout phase.

November 14 2009: Brazil 1 England 0 - Rooney was handed the Three Lions' armband for the first - and so far only - time for this friendly in Qatar, which was decided by Nilmar’s second half goal.