Rooney relishing Toon test
Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney has warned Newcastle he is relishing the chance to get back to his best form after his Swansea disappointment.
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The England international failed to fire on all cylinders in Sunday's 1-1 draw at the Liberty Stadium, proving uncharacteristically wasteful in possession and ineffective in front of goal.
One stray pass in particular, which should have teed up Javier Hernandez for a winner but was easily intercepted by Chico Flores, was the final straw for furious United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, and Rooney was hauled off shortly after.
The frontman admits he was below his best and is glad the crowded festive fixture list will give him a rapid chance to make amends, starting when Alan Pardew's Magpies visit Old Trafford.
Rooney said: "I could feel it (was not going to be my day) on the pitch. Some days you have an off day I could feel that and I couldn't complain at being substituted.
"I think the thing about football, and especially over the Christmas period, is that you have games and this game has gone for me and it is certainly not one I will remember, but I will relish the next one.
"The position we are in at the minute, it is a great opportunity to make that gap at the top of the table even bigger."
United hold a four-point lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League table after their first draw of the season.
And Rooney is targeting back-to-back wins against Newcastle and West Brom as the Red Devils look to extend their advantage over local rivals Manchester City.
"We are still in a good position with two home games coming up," Rooney added. "We need to make sure we take maximum points from them. We know it's early days and there is a long way to go, but we are in a healthy position at the moment so we need to try and keep on."
While Ferguson will be pleased to see his side hold their biggest Christmas advantage at the top of the table for a dozen years, the Scot will not be so happy with signs of defensive vulnerability.
United have conceded 25 league goals already this season, but they had the welcome boost of captain Nemanja Vidic making his first start for three months against Swansea.
"It was good to see him get 90 minutes," Rooney said. "He has been out for a while and he has been working hard in the gym and at the training ground.
"He did well at Swansea and he will be a massive player for us between now and the end of the season.
"He is a great defender and great to have in the team and a great leader. We have a few players in the team who can lead from the back or the front and he is our captain and does that."
Newcastle, who finished a superb fifth last term, have found results harder to come by this time round and currently languish in 14th place in the table.
Ferguson does not believe Pardew's men have become a bad side, but feels increased scrutiny of their style of play and some key injuries have hindered their cause.
"The second time around clubs are starting to analyse them a little bit differently, plus the fact more importantly they have had some injuries," Ferguson said.
"(Yohan) Cabaye is out until the new year, (Ryan) Taylor is out until next year. He has had one or two important players injured and that does make a difference when you don't have as strong a squad as the likes of ourselves, City and Chelsea.
"I am not entirely surprised but I am surprised how low down the table they are."