Sacrifices of Rooney are lesson to all
Published 17/01/2011 | 05:00
Wayne Rooney is in nowhere near the form of last season and the goals have stopped flowing, but his performance against Tottenham showed just why he is worth his weight in gold to Manchester United.
Some might argue that Rooney looked out-of-sorts at White Hart Lane, but the reality is that he gave the kind of performance you would not get from 95pc of foreign players.
His selfless display, out on the right flank in a position that does not help him score the goals he desperately wants, was a perfect example of why United are now the favourites to win the Premier League title and why the jury is still out on Manchester City.
Most players who had scored the number of goals Rooney scored last season would believe they have a divine right to play where they want to play, regardless of form.
Clearly, Wayne is happier in a central role where chances come more freely than out on the flank. And inwardly, he was probably anything but overjoyed to be asked to play on the right by Alex Ferguson yesterday, but there was no show of dissent or self-pity from Rooney and no drop in his performance.
He was 100pc committed, he gave everything for his team and, when United were reduced to 10 men following the dismissal of Rafael in the second half, he did what he had to do for the sake of his team and he dropped deeper to help United secure a draw.
I can't think of many overseas players who would show the same commitment if they had been asked to play in such a role.
Rooney's effort and attitude rubs off on those around him. They see him sacrificing himself for the team and it gives everybody a lift.
For me, that is why you have to favour United for the title now after a result at Spurs that carried all the hallmarks of a team likely to win the league.
Where the likes of Rooney are prepared to do what they have to do for the team, across the road at Manchester City, we have seen tantrums and in-fighting, so we have yet to see the same all-for-one commitment that United have in abundance.
Rooney exemplified that at Spurs. There is no doubt that he is not performing as he did last season, but form is temporary and class is permanent and the signs are there that he is getting his form back. He is definitely in a better place than he was at the start of the season.
It's only a matter of time before we see Wayne Rooney back to the player we all know he is. If he continues to work hard, as he always does, then the class will not be far behind.
For all of the chances that Tottenham created against United, I never actually felt as though the home team would score because Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic were immense. And although the 0-0 draw meant that United have now won just two of their 10 away games so far this season, Ferguson will not care a jot about that.
He will have come away from the game last night delighted with a performance that showed resilience and determination in what was arguably United's toughest away game all season.
Maybe the trip to Arsenal will be on a par with playing Spurs away, but United came away with an excellent result having had pressure exerted on them by City and Arsenal winning 24 hours earlier.
Can they now go through the season unbeaten? I suspect that somebody will beat them at some point, but Ferguson and United won't be interested in winning the league unbeaten.
At Liverpool in 1988, we avoided defeat at Derby to equal the longest-unbeaten start to the season, but none of us was remotely concerned about it.
We created about 10 records in the 1980s, but they have probably all gone now, yet the medals for winning the championships are what stay with you forever.
That's all that United will care about. It's about winning the big boys' trophies rather than creating records. (© Daily Telegraph, London)