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Featured Image credit: PA Images
If Fenerbahce's visit to Old Trafford tonight is half as eventful as their last trip to Manchester, 12 years ago, we're in for an unusually eventful Europa League group game at the Theatre Of Dreams.
In 2004, the buzz surrounding the Turkish giants visit wasn't about United's opposition, but rather about the new number eight who was taking the field - 18-year-old, £30m 'saviour of English football' Wayne Rooney.
Despite fielding a starting XI that included Roy Carroll, David Bellion, Kleberson and Eric Djemba-Djemba (with Cristiano Ronaldo left on the bench), United ran out 6-2 victors with goals from Giggs, Van Nistelrooy and the aforementioned Bellion. And Rooney also decided to chip in with a debut hat-trick.
In a performance that set expectations sky high, Rooney set about bludgeoning his way into the hearts and minds of United fans with a display full of the energy and wreckless abandon that would become his trademark until around 2013, when his current decline seemed to begin.
A fresh faced Rooney slams home the second of his debut hat-trick goals against Fenerbahce (Image credit: PA Images)
It wasn't just the scoring of the goals that was impressive, it was the style in which each effort was dispatched. The first was casually lifted, first time, over an advancing Rüştü Reçber with the second seeing Rooney allowing the ball to roll across him, taking a Fener defender out of the equation before powering a daisy cutter into the bottom corner from 25 yards.
Then, the coup de grâce. United were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the Fenerbahce area. No one else stood a chance of taking it. With a swing of his right foot the former Everton lad put the ball into top left corner and himself into United folklore. As if it was ever in doubt.
Should he be promoted back to the starting XI by Jose Mourinho tonight, a similar performance could go a long way to silencing a few of the United and England captain's detractors.
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