Wayne Rooney: United's perfect midfielder
Wayne Rooney belongs in midfield, and it is time he realised this
David Moyes' first ever game in charge of Manchester United at Old Trafford ended in an exciting, yet goalless, draw against Jose Mourinho's highly-fancied Chelsea side, despite the home side having dominated proceedings from start to finish.
If there are two things that can be gleaned from United's performance, the first would likely be that Moyes does not necessarily need to delve into United's transfer kitty this summer in order for the club to compete with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City.
While Mourinho's decision to field Andre Schurrle as a false nine rather than start with a conventional striker backfired woefully (Chelsea could only muster a few hopeful long-range attempts to breach David de Gea's goal, and offered very little threat of any significance), United displayed high levels of energy and tactical discipline, with the likes of Tom Cleverley, Patrice Evra and Antonio Valencia coming up with enterprising performances.
Michael Carrick was excellent in midfield, putting on a masterful display of ball retention and distribution, and his performance should serve to dispel fans' grievances regarding the midfield presenting a possible chink in the armour for Moyes' squad
The defensive duo of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic were figures of assured calm at the back and rendered the presence of Schurrle and substitute Fernando Torres insignificant.
However, the biggest positive from the game for Manchester United and David Moyes will undoubtedly be the performance of Wayne Rooney. The Scot's decision to throw the unsettled striker into the starting XI against the very team that have made two bids for him could have backfired, but eventually proved to be a moment of pure genius, as Rooney put on a masterclass of a display in front of a packed Old Trafford.
"Wayne Rooney is a Manchester United player and he'll prove that tonight", Moyes was quoted as saying during the build-up to the game, even as many questioned the selection of the player, citing the on-going transfer saga involving Rooney and Chelsea as a huge distraction, and possible a detrimental influence on his mindset.
Indeed, his role in the side was also debated, seeing as Danny Welbeck had retained his place in the starting XI alongside Robin van Persie; would Rooney feature as a midfielder? A role that is rumoured to be the main reason for his displeasure at his utilisation at the hands of former boss Sir Alex Ferguson, or would he start as a striker, the role that Chelsea would no doubt hand him if he ended up joining them?
The moment the referee's whistle signalled the start of the game, fans' fears were comprehensively laid to rest. Rooney seemed more determined than ever to prove to the United coaching staff and supporters that he still had it in him to be a fixture in the starting lineup after not starting the opening game of the season against Swansea, and was instrumental in United's controlling the lion's share of meaningful possession in the first half, even as Mourinho's tactical approach meant that Chelsea had six midfielders on the pitch.
Rooney started the game closer to Robin van Persie than to the midfield duo of Cleverley and Carrick, and was a source of constant pressure on the likes of Frank Lampard and Ramires. The number 10 striker was responsible for breaking down Chelsea possession and feeding full-backs Evra and Phil Jones, before sprinting up the pitch to support van Persie. He was everywhere, offering an outlet out wide in support of the impressive Valencia and the energetic Welbeck, and often fell back to play alongside Michael Carrick in an attempt to help United retain possession. He even managed to come up with attempts on goal, albeit weak ones, as neither team managed to challenge the opposing goalkeeper into action in the first half.
The second half saw Rooney exercise an even greater influence on proceedings. Chelsea were expected to keep more possession than they had in the first period, but Rooney dropped deeper into midfield, thus helping Carrick pick up the pieces after Chelsea attacks fell apart at the feet of the midfield destroyers time and again.
The fact that Chelsea played with a very low defensive line meant that Rooney found pockets of space between the Blues' defenders and midfielders, and utilised this space to make penetrating angled runs across the pitch, linking up with Valencia and Welbeck on either wing. With every attempt made by Chelsea to push the game into the United half, the chances of Rooney instigating a counter-attack increased, and with pacey wingers and full-backs feeding off of him, every Rooney touch signalled a significant threat to Chelsea's back line.
In perhaps his three best moments on the pitch, Rooney showed why he is an invaluable asset for Moyes and still one of the world's best players. The first was a rasping shot from distance in the second half that called Petr Cech into evasive action, the second a glorious diagonal ball from the inside left channel out wide to Ashley Young on the right touchline and the third, a glorious tackle on Andre Schurrle on the edge of the United byline that drew perhaps the loudest cheers of the game. That all three instances came in the second half displayed Rooney's ability to grow into and control the game.
Overall, Rooney was flawless from the first minute to the last, and was untouchable on the pitch. Right from making bone-crunching tackles to launching dangerous counter-attacks, his performance had it all, and was what you would have expected from any of the world's greatest box-to-box midfielders.
Rooney was excellent in the first-half, but really revelled in his more defensive role in the second, shining when called on to break Chelsea attacks down and launch counter-attacks of his own.
While Mourinho will have a lot to ponder over regarding his side's inability to muster a genuine goal-scoring opportunity of note, he will almost certainly not return to Old Trafford with an audacious third bid for Rooney, and even if he does, one can guarantee that Moyes will remain firm in his stance concerning the player's future at Old Trafford.
However, if Rooney is to put aside the differences between him and Moyes, and stay a Manchester United player, it is time he realises that the best role for him and the United team as a whole is one in the centre of midfield.
If his performance against Chelsea was anything to go by, Rooney has all the qualities necessary for him to become a world-class midfielder in the long term. With tireless stamina, excellent vision and the appropriate execution of a wide range of passing, great tactical discipline and the ability to play as a box-to-box midfielder, Rooney ticks all the boxes.
He has so far been deployed as a stop-gap midfielder by United, but if Moyes and Rooney were to go over the tapes from the match, they would realise that United do not need to resort to the transfer market to find a long-term replacement for club legend Paul Scholes, because Wayne Rooney is already the perfect midfielder.
The future for Wayne Rooney is unarguably at the centre of the Old Trafford pitch alongside Michael Carrick, and it would benefit both the player and the club if he accepts this sooner rather than later and lets up in his desire for a move away from the club and the midfield role that he seems destined for.
What did you think of Rooney's performance against Chelsea? Have your say in the comments box below.
Write for GiveMeSport! Sign-up to the GMS Writing Academy here: http://gms.to/130seMa
DISCLAIMER: This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.