Rooney returns to lead United attack against Spurs
Manchester: Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney has recovered from a throat infection in time to spearhead the Premier League champions` attack for the trip to Tottenham Hotspur, manager Alex Ferguson said on Friday.
Defender Chris Smalling is doubtful for Sunday`s game after a clash of heads on England duty midweek, while midfielders Tom Cleverley and Antonio Valencia are ruled out with foot and hamstring injuries respectively.
"Rooney`s fit, he`s trained all week which is good news," Ferguson told a news conference.
"Smalling - there`s no concussion but it is quite a nasty cut...it`s something we`ll need to tread carefully with. We`ll see what he`s like tomorrow."
Striker Michael Owen, who has been out for more than three months with a thigh injury, has returned to training.
"Hopefully the lad has a bit of luck, he`s not had much at all. When he has an injury it`s always a long-term one but hopefully he`s back for the rest of the season which will help us."
Second-placed United travel to White Hart Lane to face a Spurs team still reeling from last weekend`s 5-2 thumping by bitter rivals Arsenal which came after Harry Redknapp`s side had established a two-goal lead.
The north London side are third in the table, eight points behind United and 10 adrift of leaders Manchester City, and defeat by Ferguson`s men would probably leave them with too much ground to make up for a realistic title challenge.
With Spurs on the rebound, as well as enjoying one of their best seasons for years before Sunday`s shock result, Ferguson knows his side face a difficult game at White Hart Lane which could shape the title run-in.
"It`s a very, very important game for us," he said.
"If you look at the rest of the season, you would certainly say it`s building up to what could turn out to be decider with City (at Eastlands in April) but this is our hardest away game (before that), no doubt. Hopefully we can navigate it."
United, who beat Spurs 3-0 in August`s reverse fixture at Old Trafford, have 61 points from 26 games. City have the chance to go five points clear before Ferguson`s men play as they host second-from-bottom Bolton Wanderers on Saturday.
The champions will take some encouragement from the fact that they have not lost to Tottenham since May 2001.