Tuesday 24 April 2018

Van Gaal hails Rooney after skipper's winner eases pressure

Wayne Rooney celebrates with Anthony Martial after scoring the second goal for Manchester United Photo: Reuters / Andrew Yates
Wayne Rooney celebrates with Anthony Martial after scoring the second goal for Manchester United Photo: Reuters / Andrew Yates

Paul Hirst

Louis van Gaal praised the "amazing" Wayne Rooney after his deft backheel ended Manchester United's eight-match winless run and made the striker the second-highest goalscorer in the club's history.

Rooney moved ahead of Denis Law in the United scoring charts when he flicked Anthony Martial's cross into the net to seal a much-needed 2-1 win over Swansea at Old Trafford.

Rooney's 238th goal for the club could not have come at a better time for his manager. Van Gaal's team looked set to extend their rotten joyless run to nine matches after Gylfi Sigurdsson had equalised Martial's opener.

Van Gaal must have sensed the boos were coming for him after the final whistle. The 64-year-old thought otherwise, but his team were turgid and poor in the first period and despite an improvement after the break, it did not come as much of a surprise when Sigurdsson stooped and guided Modou Barrow's cross over De Gea and into the net with 20 minutes left.

Thankfully for the under-fire Dutchman, Rooney swivelled and beat Lukasz Fabianski with his left foot to convert Martial's cross seven minutes later.

"He scored a fantastic goal, with his left foot behind his right foot and you cannot imagine what a goal that is," the United manager said. Rooney passed Law's landmark in the same week the Scot received a CBE in the Queen's New Year Honour List for services to football and charity.

United fans also revere the Scot, of course. There is a statue of him arm in arm with George Best and Bobby Charlton outside the East Stand of Old Trafford. The England captain has played 99 more times than Law so his strike-rate is poorer, but Van Gaal insists nothing should detract from Rooney's achievement.

"It is amazing and that on the age of 30 years," said Van Gaal, who was unaware of the feat until Rooney informed him after the final whistle.

"Now we are playing much more matches but still it is an achievement. For me, it is more important he scores today. I hope it is a fantastic starting point for the team and for him."

Van Gaal hopes the win will kick-start United's season. Had they failed to beat a struggling Swansea side, more questions would have been asked about the Dutchman's future, particularly with Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola still on the market. There were a few boos at half-time when United failed to score in the first half for the ninth home game in succession, but despite registering only three shots on target and playing slowly, Van Gaal was happy with his team's performance before the break.

"I think the first half was a better half than the second," he said. "The difference was we scored the goals and then everyone is saying the second half is better. The second half is better because we scored two fantastic goals but as a team our performance in the first half was better. We don't give any chances away in the first half and we played with three defenders."

Sunday Indo Sport

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