Sport Soccer

Sunday 24 September 2017

Wayne Rooney in focus

Wayne Rooney celebrates scoring against Burnley on Sunday
Wayne Rooney celebrates scoring against Burnley on Sunday

Wayne Rooney marked his return to the Manchester United side by scoring his 251st goal for the club as Jose Mourinho's men closed the gap on the top four with a win at Burnley.

The 31-year-old was making just his 10th Premier League start of the season, and his first since a draw with Bournemouth in early March, due to Zlatan Ibrahimovic's injury and the fatigue Marcus Rashford was suffering from after Thursday's Europa League extra-time victory over Anderlecht.

Here, Press Association Sport assess Rooney's performance at Turf Moor.

POSITIONING

Despite scoring more times for the club than anyone else, Rooney has not always been seen as the focal point of United's attack during his time at Old Trafford and this was an afternoon where he was instead stationed out wide. He began on the left wing and switched with Jesse Lingard, who was occupying the right flank, during the first half, while also drifted infield in an effort to get involved. However, it was the pace and movement of Anthony Martial and Lingard that caused Burnley's defenders more issues.

LINK-UP PLAY

Alongside his more athletic colleagues, Rooney struggled to move the ball quickly, with his touch letting him down on a couple of occasions and his footwork on another as he slipped inside the box when played in by Lingard. He did send an inviting cross towards the youngster at one point, which just went over his head.

FINISHING

The first United chance of the afternoon came to Rooney when his close-range attempt was blocked by Ben Mee en route to Tom Heaton's arms. It was brave defending by the Clarets centre-back, though Rooney will have been disappointed he failed to prod the ball home given the opening that presented itself. The next time a chance came Rooney's way, when Martial's shot was saved by Heaton, he reacted well to get an effort away that was diverted in off Michael Keane's foot. Helping hand or not, he probably deserved to be credited with yet another United goal.

OVERALL

This was not a performance that will have convinced Mourinho that Rooney should be starting against Manchester City on Thursday, and it probably did little to dissuade his doubters his days at United are numbered. Though he scored an important goal at a place where United had failed to find the net in their previous two Premier League visits, the pace and vitality of United's other forwards was more eye-catching and showed Rooney's relegation to a fringe player has been merited.

Press Association

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