Sir Alex sets Rooney 20 goal target

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson set Wayne Rooney a target of 20 league goals this season after the striker opened his account with the winner in a 1-0 defeat of Birmingham City on Sunday.

With the sale of prolific Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid leaving a hole in United's goals potential, Rooney is expected to take on a more central striking role this season as United aim for a fourth consecutive Premier League title.

Rooney, who scored 12 league goals last season, has played second-fiddle to Ronaldo in recent years, often doing the donkey work for the dazzling Portuguese.

But he showed a poacher's instinct on Sunday, tapping in after his header had rebounded off a post.

His 33rd-minute effort pleased Ferguson despite a poor overall display by United.

"Wayne took his goal well," Ferguson told MUTV. "The header was a good one and then he reacted the right way, he was quick to follow up. That gets him on the road to what we hope will be a very significant total for us this season.

"It is good if you can get two or three of your players to score more than 20 goals. Wayne's capable of that, we're not asking him to do the impossible."

Rooney began the match in an orthodox forward position alongside the mercurial Dimitar Berbatov and ended it in tandem with Michael Owen but provided the central thrust to a United display that often lacked a cutting edge.

While clearly revelling in his new role and his early goal, Rooney said he believed former Liverpool striker Owen would become a useful sidekick in United's attack.

Owen had a goal ruled out for offside during a 15-minute cameo appearance and offered enough evidence to suggest he will link well with Rooney.

"All the fans are delighted he's here playing," Rooney told Sky Sports. "You saw his movement when he came on. I'm not too sure if he was offside, I haven't seen it again, but the second one, he'll take chances like that if he gets them."