Darren Fletcher has no fears for Wayne Rooney this season.
Manchester United’s star striker has been at the centre of huge turmoil in his personal life just as he was emerging from a slump in his professional one.
A long-awaited goal against West Ham immediately before the international break, then two eye-catching displays for England either side of damaging tabloid allegations, signalled a return to the form that saw him score 34 times for the Red Devils last season.
But Sir Alex Ferguson broke the momentum when he left Rooney out of the weekend trip to Everton to save him from the abuse expected to rain down from the Goodison Park stands and last night, against a Rangers side committed solely to defence, he barely had a sight of goal.
With a visit from old rivals Liverpool looming on Sunday, there are worries over Rooney’s form.
Fletcher feels such concerns are groundless.
“There is nothing to worry about with Wayne,” said Fletcher.
“Wayne is a top player and the goals will come because he has so much quality.
“It is up to us create the chances for him and give him the opportunities to score.
“Maybe we have not done that lately. Against Rangers we didn’t create anything for him.
“He will be frustrated with that but it will come.”
United could do with Rooney fully focused and ready to cause some havoc, especially at a time when Ferguson is having to cope with the loss of a key man.
The exact state of Antonio Valencia’s ankle will not be revealed until later in the week but the Ecuador star is facing a length spell on the sidelines after injuring himself so badly last night.
In his own quiet way, Valencia’s influence grew during his first season at Old Trafford.
Only his prowess in front of goal needed to improve for him to become a major component of Ferguson’s squad.
Now he must come to terms with an injury that will cast a dark cloud over his entire career, as it did when Alan Smith suffered a similar problem in 2006.
Arguably Smith has not been the same player since. But, as he came to terms with watching Valencia being carried off on a stretcher wearing an oxygen mask to ease the pain, the gruesome sight so bad Sky TV did not replay the incident itself, Fletcher is holding out more hope for the former Wigan man.
“It looked really bad,” he said.
“Hopefully the scans show it is not as bad as we fear.
“After arriving from Wigan he had a great first season and was looking to push on this year. That is why the injury is a real blow.
“He has only just got back from the injury he suffered at the end of last season too.
“He is a strong character and a good lad. He has real determination and works hard. He will be back I am sure.
“He will have a long future at Manchester United.”
In terms of orthodox wide-men, Ferguson does not have a huge number of options.
Nani’s presence is now vital as, at nearly 37, Ryan Giggs cannot be expected to make an impact in 60 games a season, while Gabriel Obertan remains an enigmatic presence in Ferguson’s squad.
It is not a problem United wanted at any stage of the campaign.
Right at the present time, on the back of three draws in four games – the ones at Fulham and Everton – from seemingly impregnable positions, it is particularly bad news.
Ferguson now has some big calls to make, with Fletcher rejecting the theory last night’s failure could be blamed on his manager’s surprising decision to make 10 changes.
“We have a big squad and everyone has a lot of ability,” said the Scotland star, the only player to retain his place from Goodison Park.
“It is difficult for the players coming in because they don’t have that match sharpness.
“But training is intense and everyone is good enough to play in this team. The manager felt things needed freshening up and the team was good enough to win the match. I agree.
“What happened last night was that we came up against a team with five defenders and three centre-halves.
“Usually when you are up against teams who get men behind the ball, they have the extra man in midfield. It proved difficult to break down.”