By Chris Harris

Arsène Wenger acknowledges that Wayne Rooney has stepped up a gear this season but he won’t be driven to distraction by the England star this Sunday.

Rooney has been under extra pressure to perform since Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez left Old Trafford last summer but he has risen to the challenge, scoring 20 goals already this season.

The 24-year-old will arrive at Emirates Stadium on the back of a four-goal haul in his last Premier League fixture against Hull and a late winner in the Carling Cup Semi-Final against Manchester City.

Wenger admits that the England international is in fine fettle but he knows that United have match-winners all over the pitch.

“I believe when you see Manchester United you always see players who can win games,” he said.

“They had last time Rooney, Ronaldo and Berbatov and we still beat them at home so I believe we have not to focus too much on Rooney, we have to focus on us putting them under pressure.

“When we have the ball, Rooney cannot score. So for us the most important thing is dominating the game collectively, defend well as a team when we don’t have the ball and do not make an obsession of Rooney.”

For all that, Wenger is a huge admirer of Rooney and is clearly impressed by the strides the England man has made over the past 12 months.

“He is still young and he is coming to the best age now,” said the Frenchman.

“Before maybe he was a bit too keen, now he is more relaxed. You play until 23 to prove everybody that you have the level to be where you play.

“After that you know ‘Yes, I belong to be where I am. I don’t have to show that now I have to make my team win’. Your target becomes a bit more different. He is at that age now, 24.”

Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to as the source
29 Jan 2010