MANCHESTER, England- Dimitar Berbatov has fired out a Champions League warning to Celtic by claiming his strike partnership with Wayne Rooney can become much deadlier than it already is.
Currently in his best vein of form since he terrorised defences at Euro 2004 as an 18-year-old, Rooney is certain to line up against Celtic at Old Trafford on Tuesday and the Scottish champions will be acutely aware that his form could destroy their chances of progressing to the knockout stages.
Rooney’s last six outings for club and country have yielded eight goals and many pundits have ascribed his new-found efficiency in front of goal to the fact that he has been playing alongside a couple of traditional centre forwards– Berbatov at United and Emile Heskey for England.
But Berbatov believes there is more to come from the combination of his assured touch and Rooney’s fluent movement in and around the penalty area.
“Our partnership is progressing well,” the Bulagarian said after Saturday’s 4-0 win over West Brom, in which both strikers scored.
“You can see it on the pitch. We have been working in training to try and understand each other and it is working. The result was really good.”
Rooney, meanwhile, is hoping that his current run will not dry up in the way his previous scoring bursts have.
“I don’t know why I go on these scoring runs but I will just carry on playing the best I can, hopefully the goals will keep coming and I can help the team win,” he said.
United boss Sir Alex Ferguson believes Rooney, who turns 23 later this month, will become a more regular source of goals as he matures.
“It is the same with all young players,” said the Scot. “They get better each year. The training standards are high, the expectations from our staff are high and the expectations of the players are high so it is a natural progress.”
United are likely to be without Patrice Evra on Tuesday after the France left-back tweaked a hamstring in the win over West Brom.
Brazilian midfielder Anderson and Argentina striker Carlos Tevez will however return to the squad after being rested at the weekend following arduous midweek trips to South America for World Cup qualifiers.
Michael Carrick is also close to a return from injury but Ferguson has indicated the midfielder will not be risked on Tuesday.
In contrast to the much-improved injury picture at Old Trafford, Celtic boss Gordon Strachan will struggle to put out anything resembling a full-strength side.
Spanish midfielder Marc Crosas (hamstring) and centreback Gary Caldwell (ankle) are both doubtful while strikers Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, Georgios Samaras and Chris Killen are all ruled out, leaving Australia’s Scott McDonald as the only first-team forward at Strachan’s disposal.
Having been held at home by Denmark’s Aalborg and then gone down to a narrow defeat in Villarreal, Celtic are struggling to stay alive in group E, but Strachan has taken heart from his side’s battling display on their last outing, in Spain.
“If you go to Old Trafford, you would want to have everyone fit and available,” he said.
“But the performance against Villarreal was our best display away from home in the Champions League since I got here, so we have to build on that, find a team that can keep the ball and be a threat.”