Wayne Rooney returned to action on Monday night, playing 61 minutes for Manchester United’s Under-21 side against Middlesbrough at Old Trafford.
The 30-year-old, who has missed 12 matches since injuring his knee during February’s Premier League defeat to Sunderland, failed to make a significant impact in front of a modest crowd of 6,132 fans.
However, Rooney has now put himself in contention to feature in the Red Devils’ FA Cup quarter-final replay against West Ham on Wednesday night.
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While the primary objective for the United and England captain was to regain some much-needed match fitness, he will be disappointed that he failed to mark his return with a goal - or even an assist.
But Rooney was quiet during the hour he was on the pitch; his main highlight being a free-kick that he hit over the crossbar in the second half.
Video: Rooney's highlights v Middlesbrough
Here are Rooney’s individual highlights against Boro, wrapped up in a neat 30-second video…
Rooney's free-kick attempt...
Scroll to 11 minutes
United’s U21s won the match 1-0, with Paddy McNair scoring the only goal of the game moments after Rooney had been substituted.
Van Gaal under pressure to beat West Ham
It’s very unlikely that Rooney will start at Upton Park on Wednesday; however, the under-fire Louis van Gaal will be acutely aware that another defeat will heap more pressure on his shoulders.
The veteran Dutch coach’s side were beaten 3-0 by Tottenham on Sunday afternoon and now have their work cut out to secure a top-four finish and Champions League football for next season.
Rooney has to end season on a high
Rooney, one of the few experienced players with leadership qualities in the Manchester United dressing room at present, could have an important role to play for the Premier League giants between now and the end of the season.
The striker will also be keen to end the campaign on a high to secure his place in Roy Hodgson’s 23-man squad for this summer’s European Championships in France.
Rooney is expected to make the squad due to his status as captain, but his lack of form can’t be ignored.
And with Jamie Vardy, Harry Kane, Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck and now, following his hat-trick against Arsenal at the weekend, Andy Carroll all in contention, Rooney’s performances simply have to improve.
Van Gaal admits Rooney could feature against West Ham
Asked whether Rooney will feature against the Hammers this week, Van Gaal was quoted as saying by Sky Sports after the Tottenham defeat: "We have to wait and see if that is the case.
"He shall play on Monday. Sixty minutes and we can see how he is doing because he has been, for more than two months, out of the game. That is not nothing.
"Of course, he is a great striker but, still, he has to show that, and if he is already in a certain shape. It's always like that, for every player."
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