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Stage is set for United star to cement himself among the worlds best

Football FanCast columnist Tristan Mann feels that next season is the perfect stage for Wayne Rooney to cement himself as one of the world's great players.

With the recent departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, and to a lesser degree, Carlos Tevez, the upcoming season will be a pivotal one for Manchester United's new attacking trio of Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen. 

The new campaign is important in an individual sense for all three, as well as for the club if United want to replicate the successes of the last two seasons. 

Ronaldo's record-breaking move to the Santiago Bernabeu will mean United have lost the person who provided them with the majority of their goals in the last few terms. However, the vacuum left by the Portugal star can, and theoretically should be filled by Rooney, Berbatov and Owen. 

After having played wide on the left for a lot of last season, Rooney will feel his time has come to stake his claim as United's star player. Indeed the upcoming season could be a defining one in the career of the young England striker. With the World Cup in South Africa only a year away, Rooney, 24, is now at a stage where he can cement his place as one of the world's great players.  

Owen, on the other hand, will have to have a truly successful season just to be considered for the England World Cup squad. He still believes he is good enough to play at international level, and Sir Alex Ferguson has given him the perfect platform to prove this. If he can stay fit, Owen will relish the opportunity of playing in a team that creates so many chances after languishing in an insipid Newcastle United team for the past four seasons. 

Berbatov, like Owen, has something to prove. Not at an international level, but to change the minds of some parts of the Old Trafford faithful. Moments of brilliance from the mercurial striker were often over shadowed by what many perceived to be a lazy and apathetic attitude last season. However, with Owen now at the club, will the Bulgarian flourish working with a striker who, unlike Tevez or Rooney, prefers to play off the shoulders of defenders? 

Looking at the rest of United's squad, it has a sense of hard work and diligence about it. Without Ronaldo, the midfield will now include the likes of Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher, Antonio Valencia, Park Ji Sung and Zoran Tosic. All good footballers, but who combined, scored fewer goals than Ronaldo last season. 

No doubt United will continue to be a very hard team to break down, with this hard working midfield and Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand continuing their rock-solid defensive partnership of last year. 

The onus will therefore be on United's new look front three to score plenty of goals as it is unlikely any of the midfield will be regular contributors. And while some critics may dismiss the trio, they each have something to prove to someone in the upcoming season, and there is every chance that by May next year, Rooney, Berbatov and Owen will having the last laugh.

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Article title: Stage is set for United star to cement himself among the worlds best

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