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Can Rooney’s goals help to turn Manchester United’s season?

February 08, 2016

- Grant Whittington

In many ways, it is little wonder that the recent round of Premier league predictions did not foresee Wayne Rooney scoring Manchester United’s winner at Anfield in an EPL game against Liverpool. After all, the Reds’ captain cut a forlorn figure for much of 2015, scoring infrequently and displaying little poise, pace or incision.

Rooney appears to have turned a corner in 2016, embracing the mantra ‘New Year, New you’. A revitalised and increasingly energetic Rooney has scored six goals in six outings since the start of January, including the winners against Swansea and Liverpool in the league, two in a pulsating draw at St. James’ Park and crucial strikes in FA Cup wins against Sheffield United and Derby County.

Much more than this, however, Rooney has also begun to look more like the player he was during United’s last glorious period of success between 2007 and 2011. Full of running and intelligent movement, he has displayed crisp passing and linked up well with fellow forwards Anthony Martial and the mercurial Juan Mata. The standard of his finishing has also returned to its former glory, from the instinctive quality of his back-heeled winner against Swansea to the cultured, arching shot he placed beyond Scott Carson in the recent cup win at Derby.

The rebirth of Rooney as a prolific and in-form hitman also has symbolic significance for the Red Devils, especially as his personal decline of the last 18 months has been reflective of United’s struggles under David Moyes and now Louis Van Gaal. His resurgence therefore hints at a brighter future, especially if he can inspire a winning run that lifts United higher in the league table and leads to an assault on Wembley in the FA Cup.

Above all else, Rooney remains United’s talisman and is central to the way in which they approach the game. As the central striker, his touch and movement helps to create space for others, while his ability to link with Mata and Martial also creates holes within the oppositions defence. This was evident in the cup win at the iPro Stadium, as Rooney not only scored from distance but also orchestrated a faster tempo passing game that caused Derby huge problems during an open second-half.

If Rooney can sustain his current run of form (both in front of goal and outside the penalty area), he can continue to have a positive influence and turn Manchester United’ season for the better. This may ultimately make the difference in United’s quest to secure a Champions’ League placing, while it could also help the Reds to win silverware for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson’s swansong in 2013.

Whether it is enough to save Van Gaal’s job is another matter, but it cannot be a bad thing for the Dutchman if Rooney remains fit, purposeful and potent in front of goal.

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