Robin van Persie, Swansea

van Persie and Welbeck threaten to put Rooney in the shade

The insouciant shrug of the shoulders, a look of frustration, a sharp word with the referee; a new season, same old Wayne Rooney. Except that the striker’s moments of petulance on Saturday came in duplicate, following each of the goals that he helped to create, as Manchester United scored victory on the opening day of the new campaign.

Rooney’s return was in extract the essence of David Moyes’ dilemma this summer: retain Rooney, whatever the player’s mental breach, or dispatch a player who can create with such devastating effect.

Yet, there remains something unseemly about Rooney’s presence in Red; a player no longer in love with the club, if ever he was, and quite possibly in decline.

Perhaps it is the memory of George Best’s final days in Manchester, perhaps more ephemeral than that, but Rooney barely looked fit – an unkempt beard adding to the appearance of a player whose finest moments are now well in the past.

With barely a game in aggregate over the pre-season period Rooney’s limited match sharpness is forgivable; the lack of application certainly isn’t.

And yet, whatever the Scouser’s dramas this summer, the 27-year-old still managed a hand in two goals at the Liberty Stadium, first for Robin van Persie and then Danny Welbeck. The talent is probably undiminished even if the physical prowess is degenerating fast.

If Rooney’s presence was a distraction then it is perhaps fortunate that United’s four goals in south Wales will focus supporters’ minds on those whose star is in the ascendancy at Old Trafford: van Persie and Welbeck.

Indeed, the pair scored three stunning strikes against Michael Laudrup’s outfit despite United spending large portions of the match on the back foot. Swansea, superbly neat in possession, will retain the ball against many teams this season, but it was United’s high-quality finishing that secured victory in Moyes’ first Premier League match in charge.

van Persie’s first was a microcosm of the Dutchman’s year at United. Dragging Ryan Giggs’ lofted pass out of the air, van Persie turned and gleefully smashed a right-footed volley into the top corner of the Swan’s net to put United ahead.

Welbeck added a second from short-range, before the Dutchman’s second – a smart turn from right to left and a quite stunning strike into Michel Vorm’s top corner. Class: the Dutchman has bags of it.

But Welbeck held back the best to last, with the England international taking Rooney’s slide-rule pass and beating Vorm with a delicately lofted finish. There was more than a touch of Eric Cantona in the goal’s majestic simplicity – an observation that mocks both Welbeck’s many detractors and the player’s record of just one goal in the Premier League last season.

“Danny’s got a bigger total already,” said Moyes in the aftermath.

“Unfortunately, I think his goal against Scotland might have helped lift his confidence. I was more pleased with his first goal here because I think if you’re a centre-forward you’ve got to get tap-ins.”

“I thought we were incisive, our finishing was fantastic. It was a brilliant performance against a Swansea team who I believe will do very well this season.”

Welbeck will surely improve on that goalscoring record in the months ahead, although Moyes’ decision to deploy the 22-year-old in a deeper role against both Swansea on Saturday and Wigan Athletic in the Community Shield is counter-intuitive to the forecast.

Yet, Moyes’ choice affords Welbeck far more opportunities to drift late into scoring areas than Sir Alex Ferguson’s deployment of the striker to the left wing. Joy, then, when Welbeck sealed United’s victory; for both player and travelling supporters drenched in the south Wales downpour.

By contrast any joy at Rooney’s 30 minute cameo was forced. True, Rooney had a significant impact, finding passes for both van Persie’s second and Welbeck’s final flourish. Yet, the former Evertonian cut a lonely presence, ignoring his teammates’ celebrations – mirroring every former frustrated fading star.

United supporters remain on the fence – yet to publicly voice the inner anger many have expressed in media away from the stadium. The player, warming up before a second-half appearance, was even greeted with a burst of song from a group of United’s supporters, although the Rooney’s entrance brought mixed warmth.

Still, Moyes remained fulsome in praise for the striker, whom he insists will not leave before the transfer window closes in around a fortnight’s time.

“Wayne did well when he came on, he made a great run which opened up the chance for Robin to go on to his left foot for our third goal, and also the ball he slipped through for Welbeck’s second was weighted lovely, so he helped the team and played a part in getting the result,” said Moyes.

“The supporters recognise good players at Manchester United and I think they recognised that when Wayne came on. He got quite a bad kick down the back of his achilles, he’s still lacking match fitness, but another 30 minutes today will bring him on. I thought when he went on he was incredibly committed.”

The question of whether Rooney is deployed from the start against Chelsea next weekend is likely to garner more headlines in the coming week. After all, Rooney’s prospective employers in west London have failed with three official bids for a player who is seemingly desperate to secure the move south.

Conflict of interest? Not half.

For the moment, though, the glory is all van Persie’s. And Welbeck’s. And a little bit Moyes’.

After all, the Dutchman has embraced United in a manner to which Rooney is seemingly incapable. Welbeck, a United player for more than a decade, is as desperate to succeed as the supporters are for him to achieve that dream.

More pragmatically van Persie’s goals, Welbeck’s growing excellence and potentially Shinji Kagawa’s talent may negate any damage from Rooney’s physical decline. That remains true whether the errant forward stays in Manchester or not.

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Comments

  1. Jibak says

    I didn’t even bother to read the whole thing, as it’s certainly not worth my time.
    Let me lay it down to you. Wayne Rooney is a professional. He is under contract at United. Till his last day at the club he will play his heart out and perform. And if there is one person in the club who can actually create moments of pure genius that is needed to beat the likes of Bayern and Chelsea and Barcelona, then that person is Wayne Mark Rooney. The longer he stays with us, the better. For us, obviously. He will get much better fans, a manager who respects him and plays him where he likes to, at some other club. He is no Paul Scholes. He is no Bobby Charlton. He is no Eric Cantona. As you’ve rightly said, he can be best compared to Geordie Best. He can win points on his own. And he will do so, if given a role where he can contribute.

    • says

      Jibak – perhaps you should have read it all. Will he play his heart out? Absolutely certainly not based on recent performances. He can’t be bothered. He can’t even be bothered to get himself properly fit. If somebody sat next to me at Old Trafford and said, twice, that he didn’t want to be a fan anymore I’d tell him to jog on. It’s the same with Rooney. You can be a pragmatist if you like, but he’s got no place in a United team. There have been better players than Rooney to play for United, and there will be better ones to come. No need to become a slave to a man who has shown complete disrespect to the club.

      • Jibak says

        He has a world cup to stay sharp for within 12 months time. From the 30 minutes we saw of him, he can be and will be on fire for the rest of the season. And only United will be benefiting from that, and we might as well show him some respect for that.

        It’s funny, how Ronaldo put in a transfer request and practically held SAF hostage over a move to Madrid- so much so that SAF had to eat his words and sell him to Madrid within 6 months- and the United fans still worship him, and here we have a player who plays his heart out every week, be it as a CM, be it as a left wing, and all he wants is to play at his best position- where he is the best in the world- and we can’t afford him that, and go on to abuse him. fantastic.

        • says

          Jibak – Ronaldo didn’t ask for a transfer, twice. In fact as we now know United, Ronaldo and Madrid all agreed to the transfer 12 months ahead. Shook on the deal and stuck to it. Rooney spent much of last season sulking. The numbers were good but the performances were poor. We’re expected to have sympathy for him? No thanks. He demanded a new contract, he demanded new players. He got both, live with the consequences of that.

      • Somnath Das says

        Its true.. I agree without!! But he is the one who has got United some very crucial goals!! And nevertheless of the club policy, “No player is greater than the Club”, let the lad be given one last chance!! Being a striker he has played much of the last season in midfield!! So there’s a frustration!! And its a long season with EPL, CL, League Cup and FA Cup so we need 4 top strikers!! Selling Wazza won’t be a good decision right now!! So lets just hope that he again fits in well!! GGMU <3

    • TheHumbleGent says

      Jibak, I think you should read this –

      Footballers’ dirty transfer tricks http://bbc.in/17r3SMd

      It might wake you up. Nearly £1,000,000 a month and he acts in such despicable way. His behaviour is symptomatic of the behaviour of a man who has been surrounded by sycophants for the majority of both his adolescent and adult life and as such behaves in a way that most ‘grounded’ people find deplorable.

      Loved the player, but the man comes across as a turd.

      • Jibak says

        That’s almost like screaming “He is a scouser, so I hate him”.
        You sure you want to really want to go on down that path?

        • The_humble_gent says

          How do you come to that conclusion?

          What strange and interesting path has led you to comment that my post has commented in any way about Wayne Rooney coming from Liverpool?

          Your post is beyond ridicule. Get a grip.

  2. Ashish says

    Hi Ed,

    It was an excellent performance from United in terms of finishing.

    When it comes to playing as the lone center forward, RVP performed that role to perfection.

    Welbeck also is a lot more comfortable playing in the hold just behind RVP as compared to on the wings and he’s developing into an integral part of the squad.

    Wayne Rooney, despite being just 50-60% fit was still able to play a part in 2 of Uniteds goals.

    I wonder if Rooney is 100% fit, then how many more goals he would create/score is anyones guess.

    Regards,
    Ashish

  3. Dayus D red says

    Great win, good goals. But yesterday’s match has shown us the need for a good midfielder. The swans bossed us for most part of the match in the middle of the pack and we can’t afford that against a btter team. Just wonder why Giggs at amost 40 is starting and Anderson and Kagawa are on the bench. Apart from the pass for RVP’s first goal, he was almost a handicap. Cutting out of possesions, unnecessary flicks and poor deecision making were order of the day. I think its high time Giggsy starts thinking of the club rather than an obsession for personal glory. The hallmark of a great man is to know when to quit. He should start thinking of the younger ones in the club. Hanging around is blocking thier path. All in all good day in office bring on Chelsea.

    • says

      What a load of shite, isn’t there someone near you who you can support, your slating of an absolute legend is just plain wrong, you know what, I’d nearly prefer utd to go down the table and win nothing for the next few yrs so the likes of you ( most likely a JCL and oot’er)would piss off and support some oil rich club. Dick..

  4. uzair says

    Although Rooney may not look interested, it’s primarily our fault. RVP came in last year and Rooney was injured and suddenly everyone went gaga over RVP. Rooney gave us over 7 years of loyal service and we threw all that out for RVP. Sir Alex didby want to play Rooney upfront because.he didn’t think rvp and Rooney would work wel upfront together, so sir Alex accomodated them by putting Rooney as a mid, away from his preferred position… Which Rooney obviously didn’t like. He wanted to play as a striker but sir Alex wouldn’t let him….this led to them falling out…the media scrutinized Rooney and sir Alex’s relationship. His manager was against him at the time and us fans were adoring RVP. We should have supported him through that time don’t you think so? So Rooney saw there was no one caring for him at the club. When sir Alex left and Moyes came in, Rooney changed his stance a bit but by then almost all fans had begun to dislike rooney. For what? For wanting to play in his preferred position. Now if roonet keeps getting hate….he will want to leave. There is no clear cut evidence he wants to leave but if the fans don’t get behind him what does he have then? He has no choice but to leave, and that’s why he hasn’t denied those rumours. Yes Rooney did look dejected and all last night but it was because he was getting hate and this made him confused and unsettled. sir Alex wasn’t one to make many mistakes but he made a bad one when he made Rooney play out of his preferred role. Yes Rooney isn’t bigger than the club but he is an icon. And a fantastic player not to mention. Most people aren’t happy with this saga including me but the best we can do now is get behind him and show him that we like him.as a player and we want him to stay. He isn’t going anywhere so.might as well try to get the best outta him! – Uzairahmed13 (Twitter)( you guys blocked me) ( unblock me, love your other tweets besides the ones disgruntling Rooney(

    • Swapnil says

      so according to you Sir Alex was wrong playing rooney out of position.even though he was not fit overweight not to mention we had rvp who was in blistering form.would SAF have been right to play Rooney in place of rvp???do you realize that without rvp in that position we would not have won the league.or do you suggest he should have played both up front thereby leaving our already piss poor midfield down to 2 players making it easier for every team to run Us over.it’s only because SAF had the guts to drop an unfit uninterested Rooney without thinking about his reputation we were able to win the league.your defense of Rooneys skulking and obvious disrespect towards our club makes me think u are in fact an idiot or Paul stetford in disguise!

  5. bill2 says

    The question has to be asked – are we getting value for money from Rooney? At 200k plus a week the answer is no. He could be reduced to an impact sub this season.

    However when he’s on the pitch he can’t help but compete – its in his nature. His poor attitude off the pitch stops him from being in the worlds top ten players,

    I would much rather have Welbeck, Hernandez and Kagawa play more in place of Rooney and his attitude towards the club is offensive. Looking beyond results it’s an insult to the club and the fans who support it.

    As RVP and Welbeck demonstrated yesterday, we can do well enough without him. The major stumbling block is the lack of a foreign buyer. We are never going to sell him in division. The impact of Robin van Persie in the last twelve months will tell you that!

  6. Denton Davey says

    bill2 @ 12:52: “I would much rather have Welbeck, Hernandez and Kagawa play more in place of Rooney”

    It’s not an “either/or” situation – play TheWayneBoy in TheScholesRole and you get “both/and”.

    The guy has fantastic talent but declining physicality to play as a striker – but no one wants to admit such a thing; certainly not a thick-head like “Wazza”. Getting him to understand that his career must now evolve is the new manager’s key challenge. Sort that and # 21 is on the horizon.

    • Damian Garside says

      I would agree that if that’s the way it has to be if he is going to stay at United: realize that his days as main striker are over and retool himself to play mIdfield. On he other hand if Chelsea absolutely ant him then we should let him go for an outrageously exploitative price: 41 million (so they have to revise their ” final” 40 million offer yet again plus a stipulation that he can’t play for them against us until 2014-2015 season (similar to what Leeds did to us when we ought Jordan and McQueen from them) or 30 million plus their best young midfielder. A price that Rooney can never live upto with the Chelseafans when he is there.

  7. Dayus D red says

    Ed, what do you rather we do with Rooney? Flog him off to Chelsea and later become our nemesis (ala RVP & Arsenal) since no other clubs are interested in him?. A moody, unfit, uninterested Rooney is more useful to united than the one scoring against us. Sooner rather than later, he will come around. This is a world cup year and Rooney will realise he needs to play regularly well to make an impact in arguably his last chance to shine on a big stage. Enough said.

    • Julian says

      Nice angle on it. I don’t agree with all this unfit business. Moyes said himself that Rooney was fit and looking sharp when the squad returned for pre-season training. The best outcome is that Moyes sticks to his guns, brings him round and with the window closed, the old Rooney returns. I’m not sure how well or otherwise Fergie handled the Rooney situation last season but he certainly left Moyes with a big headache on this one. Never mind, if we can keep Rooney and get him functioning properly he’s still our best player, potentially

    • says

      Dayrus – Let’s be clear – at what point did I suggest selling him to Chelsea? Clearly selling him to a domestic rival is unacceptable. I don’t mind the current decision – “he won’t be sold” (unless its abroad). As long as there’s a plan to deal with the fall-out of that. I’m not sure they do have one. Likelihood is we’ll get a Rooney running at about 75% of his best all season.

  8. Swapnil says

    also do you say it was wrong of us fans to cheer n praise rvp because Rooney would not like it…in that respect we should never have praised Rooney when he was playing well in the past because somebody else would have felt ignored.in my opinion SAF treated berbatov worse than he did rooney but he never showed any tantrums.forget berba we have chicharito who does everything right but was ignored not only in favour of Rooney and rvp but also in favour of welbeck who scored bloody 2 goals all season.we never hear him complaining.instead he works hard everyday in training to keep himself fit and make himself a better footballer.now that’s the attitude you must show to play for this great club!!

  9. Denton Davey says

    Damian Garside @ 2:45: “On [t]he other hand if Chelsea absolutely ant him then we should let him go for an outrageously exploitative price: 41 million”

    Since the owner of CSKALondon has a virtually-bottomless bank account – and the manager couldn’t care less about what gets spent for his benefit – I’d imagine that the “outrageously exploitative price” would have to be considerably more than 41 million – paid in ca$h, up-front.

    There has to be a price at which UTD “blink”; if CR7 was sold for 80 million then why not ask the same price and “come down” to – just saying ! – 65 million ? “Money talks, bullshit walks”.

    If CSKALondon won’t pay that amount then what does that tell TheWayneBoy ? Maybe he’ll get the message that @ UTD he really is no longer anything more that the joint-third-choice behind RVP and DannyTheLad. Or maybe the fourth-choice behind Chicharito, too.

    The next eight days – before the visit of TheRentBoyz to OT on Monday-next – promise to be a pantomime-carnival of truly outrageous proportions. Enjoy the ride !

  10. twisted bloodtwisted blood says

    This is a hard one. Could be be a new Scholesy? Yes, but he doesn’t want to play there. Could he succeed at United even with all the competition? Yes, but he doesn’t want to play here. It’s all attitude. That said, you can’t strengthen a rival. Give me one of the three amigos and 30 million and it’s a deal, Jose. In fact, I’d bite your hand off taking that deal…..

  11. steggo says

    Fellaini and Baines. Why??????????? How are they going to enhance or improve the team? Desperation, methinks!
    As regards to Rooney he originally complained about a lack of ambition at the club. A world class striker arrives and Rooneys nose is put out of joint. What it really amounts to is that Rooney no longer has the clout to hold the club to ransom as he did in 2011.
    Great point about the physical decline of Rooney but maybe that’s connected to his mental state-he may revive with a new challenge.
    Please don’t compare Rooney with George Best-Best was a genius, Rooney isn’t.

  12. nl0102 says

    Ed and Paul seem like such nice, thoughtful guys, doing this website and their podcast simply because they love United. They deserve better than some of this confrontational or outright belligerent ranting (cue belligerent ranting, coming my way).

    Yeah, I should just not read the comments, and Yes, many people here are also contributing to the site’s overall intelligent conversation. So to those of you, thank you.

  13. Damian Garside says

    This is not the way to do business. Everton are right: the offer for Baines and Fellaini is a joke and reflects badly on our club. We may be good on the pitch but elsewhere we are becoming an embarrassment. Compare our peanuts offer with Chelsea offering 40 million for Rooney. Do we need these players? Everton don’t need to sell and quoting what the (antiquated) market rate is is not going to induce them to sell. The Empire is starting to crumble.

  14. Lucas says

    If Chelsea offer Mata plus 20M for Rooney, should we take it? Rooney is as important to us as Mata is for them…so, in all likelihood we will not strengthen Chelsea at our expense.

    Also, in Rooney’s absence, Kagawa can get to play at his preferred no.10 position!

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