Wayne Rooney: husband, father, footballer, striker, play-maker, defender, captain, international, the list could really go on, was involved in all four goals (Manchester United only had 3) Sunday as the reigning champions not-so-impressively beat relegation applicants Hull City at the KC Stadium.
It was a performance United fans are reluctantly getting used to this season as the players struggled for large parts of the match to find their cohesive, crisp passing that has previously seen them lift three league trophies in a row. Rooney finally found the break through in first half stoppage time after Rafael Da Silva was unable to. The Brazilian beat Hull’s offside trap but was unable to slot home against Hull keeper Boaz Myhill. Leaving it late, Rooney latched on to a tidy ball a mere few yards in front of goal from Darren Fletcher who was also impressive in midfield for United. The Champions took the slimmest of leads into the interval.
Looking to find a way out of deep in his own half, Rooney clumsily back-passed to Tomasz Kuszczak fifteen minutes into the second half. The ball was intercepted by Craig Fagan who crossed to Jozy Altidore. Altidore won what was an odd looking and light penalty as he seemed to have flailed widely as Fabio bumped him from behind. Contact was made none-the-less and Fagan stepped up to slot home. Rooney the hero, now the villain.
In his attempt to make nice with Sir Alex, Rooney forced Hull City’s Andy Dawson to tap into his own net in the 73rd after the England striker crossed from a tight angle. United had the lead they so desperately desired but barely deserved. Rooney topped off his day by placing a neatly timed ball on a silver platter for his strike partner Dimitar Berbatov who tapped in. An easier goal, Berbatov won’t see all season. 3-1, the brave Tigers were finally beaten.
A day that saw the Champions gain all three points was a day that saw Wayne Rooney continue his increased role for United. Largely absent for most of the game was any width in attack for United. Antonio Valencia has been effective this year but was uninvolved Sunday. Professor Giggs was also miles away from his best as he continually misplaced passes in his attempts to link play (both midfielders were pulled off in the second half). Besides finishing off Rooney’s brilliant pass, Berbatov was also missing in action and failed to add any creativity up front for United.
As seen five times already this season, United can be beaten. The interesting statistic is that in all five league defeats, United have yet to score a goal – they’ve been outscored by their opposition in those defeats 8-0, a stat that won’t please Ferguson. Another oddity is that United haven’t drawn but one league match this season, it seems to be win or loose for United who haven’t figured out that a point is better than zero. In three out of their five loses, the final score has been 1-0.
But gone are they days of the greasy one being able to turn a match at the flip of a switch. When Rooney isn’t producing at his best, United suffer. The difference from the United team this year from previous years is, if any one player was having an off day, someone else would step up and fill his shoes. United need that second player to do just that if they are going to challenge for their fourth straight this season.
At times, Ryan Giggs has filled the creative void largely resulting from Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Real Madrid, but his age has left his appearances limited.Valencia has shown signs of being that wide player on United’s flanks, stretching defenses and producing crosses into the box, he’s got pace and a powerful strike, but hasn’t quite got the bit in his teeth yet. Berbatov if anything has under produced and taken a step back from his decent form last year. Someone has to step up to help Rooney if he’s unable to break down a defense like he did against Hull City. No one player can carry a team to the title. If Rooney’s continued, increased role for Manchester United isn’t shared by an offensive, creative player, United will stumble through the second half of the season relinquishing their title to either Chelsea or Arsenal.