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Europa League United against Fenerbahce revives memories of Rooney debut

Manchester United take on Fenerbahce in a fixture which has special memories for Wayne Rooney.

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Jose Mourinho gives instructions to Wayne Rooney as he comes on as a substitute against Stoke City at Old Trafford on October 2, 2016 play

Jose Mourinho gives instructions to Wayne Rooney as he comes on as a substitute against Stoke City at Old Trafford on October 2, 2016

(AFP)

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Wayne Rooney made a sensational debut as an 18-year-old for Manchester United in the Champions League against Fenerbahce.

Twelve years later the sides meet at Old Trafford in a key Europa League encounter.

Manchester United take on Fenerbahce in a key Group A match of the Europa League on Thursday in a fixture which has special memories for Wayne Rooney.

The England captain made a sensational debut as an 18-year-old for United after arriving from Everton in 2004, scoring a hat-trick in a 6-2 defeat of the Turkish side in the Champions League at Old Trafford.

Twelve years later, Rooney appears no longer a first choice for manager Jose Mourinho, but will be keen for some action as he seeks another goal to equal Ruud van Nistelrooy club record of 37 goals in UEFA competition.

United, on three points, also come up against former striker Robin van Persie as they seek to overtake unbeaten Fenerbahce (four), while Feyenoord – also on three points – host Ukrainians Zorya.

Mourinho is thought likely to make changes following the goalless draw at Liverpool on Monday and a game at Chelsea on Sunday, with Rooney hoping to start.

“I like to think I can play every game, but obviously it’s the manager’s decision and I respect that,’’ Roooney said.

Roma veteran Francesco Totti is also eyeing a goal landmark against visiting Austria Vienna in a Group E game featuring the leading sides, both on four points.

Captain Totti, who turned 40 on Sept. 27, could, if he plays, take his goal tally to 100 in UEFA competitions.
Roma defender Federico Fazio said: “Getting all three points on Thursday would be huge for our standing in the group and also in terms of our morale.

“We want to keep on winning and get used to the feeling – it has to become the norm.’’

Fellow Italians Inter Milan badly need a win after two defeats in Group K as they host Premier League side Southampton.

“Europe is not simple,’’ Inter coach Frank de Boer said. “We have to play every game as if it’s a derby and so far we haven’t done that.’’

Isarael’s Hapoel Beer-Sheva, level on four points with Southampton meanwhile greet Sparta Prague, who are a point behind.

Of the Spanish contingent, Athletic Bilbao visit Genk in good heart after Sunday’s 3-2 defeat of Real Sociedad in the Basque derby.

“We are in quite good form and enjoying our games,” left-back Mikel Balenziaga said. “But we cannot relax our efforts at all. Thursday’s game is important in qualifying for the knockout stage.”

Group F is the tightest of all, with Bilbao, Genk, Sassuolo and Rapid Vienna – who host the Italians – all on three points.

Celta Vigo host Group G leaders Ajax, who are two points above them, while Group L leaders Villarreal visit Turkish side Osmalispor.

Germany’s Schalke are missing a number of injured players as they visit Russian side Krasnodar in a Group I meeting between two sides who have won their first two games.

Fiorentina hope to maintain top spot in Group J in a visit to Slovan Liberec, Bundesliga side Mainz greet Anderlecht in a match between the two top Group C teams, while Group D sees a clash between undefeated Dundalk and Zenit St Petersburg.

Among the evening’s 24 games, Shakhtar Donetsk are seeking a third win when they greet KAA Gent in Group H.

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