Louis van Gaal remains in charge of Manchester United, for now, after buying himself some additional time thanks to Monday’s 0-0 draw against Premier League champions Chelsea at Old Trafford.
United created several clear-cut opportunities to score, hitting the woodwork a couple of times, and were unlucky not to take all three points from the match.
It was the much-maligned Wayne Rooney who was named Man of the Match after the final whistle - although United goalkeeper David de Gea must have felt a little hard done-by with that particular decision - and Rio Ferdinand believes the Red Devils’ skipper is the man who can save Van Gaal’s job.
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“But with United fans scrambling around for positives, the performance of Wayne Rooney must have given them hope,” Ferdinand, who played alongside Rooney at Old Trafford for 11 years, wrote in his latest column for The Sun.
“Rooney’s display reminded us of the player who used to light up English football — a player we have seen too infrequently under manager Louis van Gaal. And I reckon being dropped for the previous game against Stoke was the best thing that could have happened to him.”
Rooney hungry to prove a point?
Van Gaal named Rooney amongst the substitutes - a tactical decision, the veteran Dutch coach insisted - for the 2-0 defeat to Stoke City on Boxing Day.
However, the England skipper made an impact as a second-half substitute and then produced another decent display against Chelsea two days later.
“When you are dumped on the bench it is a huge blow to your pride, as I learned from my own personal experience in the latter days of my career,” Ferdinand continued. “You re-evaluate all aspects of your life. You examine your social habits, attitude to the game, application in training, your mental approach, absolutely everything.
“And if you have anything about you, you make a vow that the manager can never again have a reason to leave you out of the team. Wayne will have been hurt and desperate to prove a point.
“So, one of two things must have happened. Van Gaal may have taken the shackles off and allowed Rooney to go out and express himself.
“Either that or Wayne has thought “Sod it, I’ll play how I want to play”. Whatever it was, it worked.”
Rooney must prove this was no one-off
It remains to be seen, however, whether Rooney’s performance was a one-off or if this marks the beginning of his turnaround following a poor start to the season by his own high standards.
As well as looking slow and off the pace, Rooney has only managed to score two goals and register the same number of assists in the Premier League this term, leading to suggestions the 30-year-old might now be in decline as a top-level footballer.
Manchester United fans: are we about to see the Wayne Rooney of old again? Have your say by leaving a comment below.