Thursday 14 November 2019

Rooney puts United in mood for derby

West Ham 0 Man Utd 2

Wayne Rooney of Manchester United is congratulated by teammates Shinji Kagawa, Juan Mata and Ashley Young after scoring his team's second goal
Wayne Rooney of Manchester United is congratulated by teammates Shinji Kagawa, Juan Mata and Ashley Young after scoring his team's second goal
Darren Fletcher is tackled by Mark Noble
David Moyes speaks with Rafael and Michael Carrick

Jacob Steinberg

It was unlikely last summer, when Wayne Rooney looked certain to join Chelsea, but maybe he can be Manchester United's new Captain Marvel.

Wearing the armband seemed to imbue Rooney with superhuman powers as he led his team to a slick win and a week that began with doubts being raised over David Moyes's future has ended in triumph.

A first-half double from Rooney was enough for United to breeze past West Ham, who are six points above the bottom three after a third successive defeat, and he is unlikely ever to score a better goal than his first here. Rooney was 57 yards out when he shot and while the West Ham goalkeeper Adrian, will not want to see replays, it was a moment of pure genius that most players would never have even dreamed of.

Tuesday's derby against Manchester City is not so daunting now. With Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic missing, Michael Carrick had to drop back from midfield. Andy Carroll must have been licking his lips at the prospect.

Carroll's first contribution was to clear Marouane Fellaini's header off the line after three minutes.

United were playing as if a huge weight had been taken off their shoulders but the way that they took the lead after eight minutes left everyone rubbing their eyes in disbelief.

There appeared to be no danger when Rooney challenged James Tomkins just inside West Ham's half. However, Tomkins misjudged the bounce – he felt there was a nudge – and Rooney spotting Adrian off his line,let fly with an astonishing, looping volley that hung in the air for an age. Soon, a panicking Adrian was sprinting back towards goal, then he was running around in a circle, like a dog chasing his own tail, and the ball bounced high into the net.

Shinji Kagawa and Juan Mata had shots saved by Adrian as United chased a second. Inevitably, it was Rooney who extended United's lead. After 35 minutes he started one of many United counterattacks and when Mark Noble made a hash of clearing Ashley Young's cross, Rooney's finish was clinical.

For West Ham, it was threatening to become an ordeal. Their approach, based around finding Carroll, was lumpen compared to United's and the striker threatened only once in the first half, heading straight at David de Gea.

This was a tantalising glimpse of the future for United. For the first time since his move from Chelsea in January, Mata looked like he truly belonged in a Manchester United shirt.

They still had to be careful with their makeshift defence, though, and there were nerves whenever West Ham had a set-piece. De Gea was rarely troubled, though: Phil Jones was a rock at the heart of United's defence. Carrick also coped well and West Ham were not doing enough to target left-back Alex Buttner. West Ham were poor but sometimes nothing can be done when a player as good as Rooney is in the mood.

Observer

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