REMEMBER the days when Wayne Rooney wanted out of Old Trafford?
It seems so long ago. Since then strikers all over the country have been accused of throwing their toys out of the pram – Tevez, Torres, Bent, Bendtner, Carroll, the list goes on. Rooney has been forgiven by the Old Trafford faithful for his high-profile tantrum and last night they were singing his name from the rafters as he scored two and could have had four. All the talk about goal droughts can be forgotten.
Rooney has discovered where the net is again after bagging his first double in 11 months and his first goals at home from open play in almost as long. And the added bonus was that he did it in front of a delighted England boss Fabio Capello. Expect Rooney to go on a goal-scoring spree with such a huge weight lifted from his shoulders. His resurgence could be the extra ingredient which sees leaders United over the finish line in the title race and maybe even emulate Arsenal’s Invincibles.
With evergreen Ryan Giggs continuing to defy his years at the age of 37, Nani in outstanding form and Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic standing firm at the back, the omens for United are good ones. This victory equalled a club record established at the end of the last century of 29 games without defeat. That run stretched from Boxing Day 1998 through to October 1999, during which time United clinched the Treble. This time round United have not lost since being beaten at home by Chelsea on April 3 last year. Alex Ferguson had tried to calm worries about Rooney’s lack of goals, insisting that as long as he and partner Dimitar Berbatov got 40 between them he would be happy if Rooney’s contribution was only 10. You knew that was not good enough for Rooney.
He was desperate to get back on the goal trail, especially at Old Trafford having only scored one penalty at home all season. He struck after only 50 seconds when a long free-kick from Edwin van der Sar sailed over Richard Dunne.
Rooney brilliantly controlled the ball with his right foot before cracking an unstoppable volley beyond helpless keeper Brad Friedel. American stopper Friedel became Villa’s oldest ever player at the age of 39 years 259 days and, like Giggs, he defies the years. Despite being unable to do anything about Rooney’s opener he made a fantastic diving save to his left to keep out a fierce low drive from Nani, held on from Patrice Evra’s near-post shot and kept out another Nani effort to his right.
The Portuguese winger was not having much luck. He was also denied a penalty believing he was blocked by Villa centre-half Dunne, only for referee Chris Foy to ignore his claims. Nani was finally rewarded for his endeavours when he produced a pinpoint cross to Rooney to slam home the second just before half-time. That was the England striker’s fifth goal of the season and gave United a comfortable cushion going in to the second half. While United were the superior side, Villa have been pulling away from the danger zone in recent weeks. And they grabbed a goal back on 58 minutes through £24million new boy Darren Bent. Ashley Young bravely won the ball and Stewart Downing got away down the right.
Bent, in space, was begging for the cross and, when it arrived, he despatched it like the true finisher he is. It was the England striker’s second goal in three games since his controversial arrival from Sunderland. United were stung but five minutes later ensured there would be no comeback. Skipper Vidic headed down to Rooney and, when the ball was laid back, the Serb defender curled home a magnificent shot. Rooney would have been proud of that one himself. Vidic gets the odd goal or two but usually with his head. Young almost set up a grandstand finish but his 20-yard effort struck the crossbar. Rooney fought hard for his hat-trick, being well tackled by Dunne as he went through and then foiled by another quality save from Friedel.
Berbatov could have added to the 20 goals he has already scored this season near the end but the Bulgarian fired over from eight yards after Friedel had denied Nani. It was back in the autumn that Rooney blew a gasket and announced he wanted to go. He complained about a lack of investment in the United team and questioned why there were no major new signings coming in to Old Trafford.
Ferguson has since presented him with a new reserve keeper in £3.5m Anders Lindegaard and precisely nothing else while rivals like Chelsea have been splashing more than £70m in the transfer window. Not a peep of complaint from Rooney any more. He has learned to get on with what he does best on the pitch and leave Ferguson to do what he does best off it.
Copyright 2011 by Suffian Yans