Manchester

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney wipes his brow during their friendly soccer match against the New England Revolution in Foxborough.

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney scored a hat-trick within 21 minutes after coming on in the second half against Seattle Sounders, which helped United to a 7-0 win at the CenturyLink field on Thursday.

It is starkly contrasting to Rooney at the same stage last year, when he had just come through a miserable world cup where he failed to score and had gone on to endure fitness problems for the rest of the year, during which controversy arose of a possible move to neighbours Manchester City.  It was a torrid time for him, no doubt.

Signs point to a very different season for the 25-year-old this time. He finished last season in impressive forma and seems to have carried it forward to pre-season. It has all lead to talk of a strong start for Rooney and United, but the Merseyside born player played down the talk, saying he always feels the need for improvement.

I'm a player who wants to do well all the time and I know I can always improve, so if I keep working and practicing, hopefully I can do that. I don't really set targets but it would be nice if I can get through the season injury-free. That would be a big boost for me.

I hope that I'm going to get better and better. I work and practise hard every day to try to achieve that so if I do that it'll be great for me and the club.

In world football these days, every dedicated player attempts to meet the standards set by Barcelona star Lionel Messi. Rooney is no different, stating he would attempt to emulate the Argentine while admitting Barca were the better team in the Champions League final against United last season, which the Catalans won 3-1.  

Messi is a great player and rightly World Player of the Year, he said. I think, not just for me, but for every footballer out there, that's the target you want to try to get to and hopefully I can do that.

Barcelona have their style of play and we play differently - not everyone can play the way they do. They have their identity and we have our own. Full credit to them, they were a much better team than us on the day and deserved the win, but we're looking forward to the new season now, trying to put that behind us and concentrating on what's ahead.

I think you have to put it behind you. I still think it was a great achievement by us to get to the final. Obviously you want to win, but they were better than us so you have to hold your hands up to that. It's always disappointing when you lose in any competition. We just want to do our best this season, try to retain the title and go that one step further in the Champions League.

When asked of his views of the upcoming season, which begins on 13 August, Rooney pinpointed Liverpool as the side who would return to challenging for titles under the stewardship of Kenny Dalglish. The Scot returned to save Liverpool's season at the turn of the year, and he has since been awarded a permanent contract and has supervised new arrivals at Anfield.

And Rooney believes they'll challenge for the title once again.

Liverpool will challenge this time. he said. They've made some really good signings under Kenny Dalglish, British players, and I'm sure they will try harder than they've ever done, fighting to be up there.

They will think they have a chance of winning the title. The main threat is going to be from Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City. One of them, plus us, will be fighting for the title.