Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney registered his first goals of the new season on Wednesday night when he scored a hat-trick to help the Red Devils to a 7-1 aggregate victory over Club Brugge and ensure that the club reached this year’s Champions League group stage.
After a slow start to the season by his very high standards, and with some critics foolishly questioning his unquestionable quality, Rooney returned to goalscoring form at the Jan Breydel Stadium.
Hopefully his match-winning display will silence some unintelligent doubters and prove to them that he still has what it takes to play as an out-and-out centre forward.
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When Rooney was being deployed in various midfield roles last season, the English press slammed United boss Louis van Gaal vociferously and suggested that the Dutch manager move his captain back upfront into his actual position.
Then, with only a handful of games played in the new season, the media started to doubt their own judgement and claimed at press conferences that Rooney might not be able to play as a lone striker anymore.
People have said that Rooney is out of form and that his best years are behind him, which for a player aged 29 is simply ridiculous.
He’s not out of form, but Van Gaal is intent on playing a very possession-based game this season in the Premier League, in which Rooney has an exceedingly disciplined role to perform in terms of holding his position and acting as a focal point.
However. so far in the system United’s build up play has been far too slow and hence the England captain has been starved of service.
BACK TO HIS VERY BEST
In the play-off second leg against Brugge Rooney seemed to rediscover his first touch, his movement was excellent and he held the ball up particularly well.
One thing that may be difficult to notice whilst watching on television is both the quantity and the quality of the runs that he makes off the ball.
His willingness to run in behind the defence of the current Belgian Cup holders throughout the entire match was absolutely fantastic and he insured that their centre-backs never had a moment’s rest.
Rooney silenced the crowd in the 20th minute with the opening goal of the game and took his other two extremely well on top of that, but it must be noted that the lone striker profited greatly from the increased support of United’s midfield men, who were distinctly improved in that regard.
Players such as Ander Herrera, Adnan Januzaj and Memphis Depay made more of a conscious effort to move the ball at a high tempo, getting the ball forward to Rooney more quickly.
It was Herrera that Rooney had to thank for his second goal, as the Spaniard concluded a fantastic team move by making a good forward run that created the space to square the ball across the box for his skipper to roll into the net.
Even when Rooney isn’t scoring goals, United’s talisman still brings so much to the team with his leadership qualities, immense work rate, vision, sublime passing range and his unmatched desire to win football matches.
So far this season he has developed a real connection with summer signing Memphis, who provided the assist for Rooney’s first goal in Brugge, and, as I've stated before, throughout his career Rooney has shown that once he gets on a roll of scoring goals, he's very difficult to stop.
United fans, is Rooney the perfect man to lead you line? Let us know if you'd prefer someone else in the comments box below.