Wayne Rooney believes the real Manchester United are about to stand up and be counted as David Moyes's side take on Olympiakos at the Karaiskakis Stadium. The striker is determined to win the European Cup for a second time, insisting his lone winners' medal is "not enough".
That triumph came in 2008, when Rooney was part of the United side that defeated Chelsea on penalties in Moscow. Despite a stuttering season in David Moyes' inaugural campaign as manager that has left United 11 points from fourth place, Rooney believes this team could be poised to discover their best form.
Asked if the real United are about to stand up, he said: "Yes, as a group of players we have to take responsibility for the league position we are in. We know we are better than that. We haven't performed as well as we can do. We know that and it hurts when as a team you know you can do better. We haven't and it's important we finish the season strong, and take the momentum into next year. But it's most important that we finish the season strong, get that fourth spot and progress far into the Champions League. It's important to us all."
United won 2-0 at Crystal Palace on Saturday, a display that was among their best of the season. Rooney cited this and other recent performances as evidence that the side may be about to click into a high gear.
"Yeah, I think of late our performances have been good," said the forward. "Even in the Fulham game we performed well and were unfortunate [to draw 2-2]. The Arsenal game we played really well [drawing 0-0]. We are playing well and can obviously improve, but I think in the Champions League we've been excellent this year and hopefully we can take that form into the game and get the right result."
Rooney, who signed a new five-and-a-half year contract last week that will keep him at the club until he is 33, wants to add more medals to his collection. The Liverpudlian remains unsatisfied with his sole Champions League triumph.
"I think you always want to win it," he said. "To win one is never enough. Especially at this club, you need to keep trying to get into those finals. We want to win. The feeling you get as a player when you win those finals is incredible so there's no way you'd want to stop at one. You want to win every year, which is obviously impossible. If we can go to the final it would be great for us. It's an opportunity for us to win a trophy so hopefully we can do that."
Against Olympiakos, Rooney will start with Robin van Persie for a fifth consecutive game, which has not happened since last April. Each of the strikers scored against Palace, and Rooney is in no doubt of the threat they pose when in tandem. "Robin is a fantastic player – one of the best goalscorers in world football," he said. "We've both had injuries at the same time this season but hopefully we can stay fit. When we are both playing we will score goals but we have other forwards coming in as well. I think it's important we play well and that will bring other [strikers] around to play well as well."
Of having the pair fit and in form once more, Moyes said: "They are both vital to a lot of things we do. They are both excellent players and our record with them is better than without them, for sure. They've both got themselves back into great shape and both are goalscorers. They score in the big games and make the big moments."
The defenders Phil Jones, who has a hip injury, and Jonny Evans, with a calf problem, are out along with the winger Nani, who has a hamstring strain, but the full-back Da Silva and striker Danny Welbeck have overcome their respective head and knee injuries. The club's record signing Juan Mata is cup-tied having played in the competition for Chelsea.
Míchel, the Olympiakos coach, suggested United could feel pressured because of their lowly league position of sixth. "We do know the state of Manchester United and we know the type of team we're facing," he said. "There is a dual interpretation because we know there's lots at stake for Manchester United in this match.
"We know Manchester United are not allowed to make any mistakes tomorrow due to their position in the Premier League and we have to say probably this kind of situation may weigh too much on their players' shoulders. But we do not know if this position in the table will be an incentive to them or a burden on their shoulders."
Moyes shrugged off the idea that his players could be hindered by the need to retain their place in this season's competition. "I think we just go out and try win the next game," said the United manager. "We are just trying to win the next game against Olympiakos."