Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney made his first start since February 13 as the Red Devils narrowly defeated Aston Villa 1-0 to confirm the west Midlands club’s inevitable relegation to the Championship.
Upon his substitution in the 67th minute, Rooney received a standing ovation from the Old Trafford faithful and his return is certainly welcome for Louis van Gaal as his side chase a top four finish in the Premier League in addition to FA Cup glory.
Rooney’s performance against Villa
As Villa became slightly disjointed towards the end of the first half, Rooney started to pull the strings and take control of the game, spraying some wonderful long-range diagonals to Antonio Valencia on the right flank. The England international made 40 passes in total more than any other striker on the pitch.
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It was Rooney’s vision and technical ability which led to United’s opening goal. He took a quick free-kick, switching the play out to Valencia from the middle of the park, who then raced to the by-line before cutting the ball back for Marcus Rashford to finish.
United’s talisman did well with his back to goal, fending off Villa defenders and bringing his teammates into play. He showed a few signs of rustiness with some heavy touches in potential goalscoring positions, but he did win back possession for his team in midfield on a few occasions as well.
A glimpse of the future?
Since Rooney no longer has the pace that he used to, it seems as though his days of leading the line are over. He’s intelligent enough to play pretty much anywhere on the pitch, however many people think that the position just off the front, as an attacking midfielder, is his best and one that he could perfect over the next few years.
Rooney, who is already England’s all-time leading goalscorer, is just six goals away from overtaking Sir Bobby Charlton as Man United’s all-time top scorer. He still loves to get himself into the box at every opportunity and he’s shown for many years that he’s more than capable of finding the back of the net from distance.
With his vision and quality on the ball, there’s no doubt that Rooney can pose a big threat playing in a slightly withdrawn role, however at 30, he needs quick players around him. Forwards like Rashford and Anthony Martial have the pace to stretch defences, which will give their skipper more time and space to influence football matches.
Although Rooney deserves credit for his performance, it’s worth remembering that he was up against arguably one of the worst teams in Premier League history. The ex-Everton man still has to prove that he can do it in the big matches for both club and country, but it was certainly an encouraging return to first-team action for Rooney.
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