Manchester City, the Premier League champions, are the opponents for United and this derby stirs up some enduring memories for Rooney, with no moment sweeter than that overhead winner almost four years ago.
It was the type of iconic goal only players of his calibre can score, and resulted in United securing a dramatic victory at Old Trafford against their ‘noisy neighbours’ on the way to clinching yet another league title.
This strike demonstrated Rooney at his very best and was later voted the greatest goal to have been scored during the first 20 years of the Premier League, beating Dennis Bergkamp, Paolo di Canio and other esteemed company.
Rooney reflected on the goal in his book My Decade in the Premier League, describing it as an almost out of body experience. It is something he will have to go a long way to top in the remainder of his career.
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“As I jog back to the centre circle, still tingling, I go into rewind,” he wrote.
“It’s ridiculous, I know, but I’m worried I might never feel this way again. I want to remember what’s just happened, to relive the moment over and over because it feels so good.
“We close out the game 2–1. Everyone gathers round me in the dressing room afterwards, they want to talk about the goal. But I’m done in, I’ve nothing left; it’s all out there on the pitch, along with that overhead kick.
“The room is buzzing; Rio Ferdinand is buzzing. ‘Wow,’ he says.”
How Rooney would love a similar result and intervention this weekend when United face City once again, and three points will effectively derail the season of the title holders. And that would make it all the sweeter.
Van Gaal is expected to retain both Radamel Falcao and Robin van Persie at the summit of his attack, with Rooney set to operate in a more creative role once again. This will result in Juan Mata or Adnan Januzaj missing out.
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