- In the weekend’s only Premier League match, Wayne Rooney puts on a clinic in finishing and claims the United captaincy of the future.
- Then and Now
Not since the Hamburg-bound Ruud van Nistelrooy did it for United in November of 2004 has a Manchester United player scored four goals in a competitive contest. Then, it was in the Champions League vs Sparta Prague. Now, it’s Wayne Rooney in the Premier League vs Hull City to take the Red Devils to the summit, if only for a few days.
Rooney opened the scoring in the eighth minute with a classic poacher’s goal after a “we’ve seen this before” Paul Scholes blast from some 30-plus yards out. Rooney found the scraps just a few yards away from Boaz Myhill’s goal and tapped home.
United dominated possession for the majority of the first half with the Portuguese winger Nani vibrant in attack. Nani got his trademark blast into row zed out of his system in the 12th minute and provided quality service into the box with low, hard crosses instead of his usual misplaced service throughout the day. Nani could have been awarded a penalty in the 24th minute after a clever run into the box resulted in a clip from a lunging Geovanni.
But the day belonged to Rooney. He dominated proceedings on the pitch like his name dominated the scorecard. If the future captain at Old Trafford wasn’t already obvious, Rooney solidified acquisition of the arm band on Saturday when Rio Ferdinand moves to pastures greener. While Ferdinand monitored a subdued Hull City attack from central defense, time after time, the passionate Rooney screamed direction and demanded better from his teammates when their play, passes and movement weren’t up to his standards. A true, vocal leader for United whose play requests better from those around him.
For Rooney, it really could have been five as the England striker missed with a free kick by only inches in the 33rd. It took United until the 82nd to secure all three points after which Rooney thought it appropriate to play on as Hull City’s Andy Dawson lay face down in the box. In review, Hull City had every chance to play the ball out had they deemed it necessary. Rooney emphatically finished with a well struck blast into the top of the net only minutes before adding his third with a header from a pristine cross from Nani. Yes, it usually takes a pristine cross for Rooney to score with his head. The fourth came in the 91st as Rooney found the ball at his feet from a neat chip from substitute Dimitar Berbatov, a bit of shocking defending ensued and a falling down Rooney tucked the ball in the corner to put United level on goal difference with Arsenal and Chelsea.
Strike partner Michael Owen will lament not getting on the score sheet in what ended a rout for the Champions. But for me, Owen impressed throughout his 70 plus minutes of action with a few decent chances. In truth, Owen should have scored and possibly only furthered Fabio Capello’s decision to exclude him from the England set up. If that sounded contradictory, then I’ve succeeded. Owen was good on the day, slotting in behind Rooney at times and linking play from midfield effectively, but still lacks that sharp, killer instinct finishing in front of goal. A contradictory performance from the England man who oh so wants to contribute to country.
In the end the 4-0 scoreline can be deceiving for United supporters. After all, it was Hull City who remain in the bottom three looking to still find their Premier League identity. Sterner tests will come Wednesday with the 2nd leg Carling Cup tie and then on Sunday when league play resumes with a trip to the Emirates. A MASSIVE statement game for Rooney and United if there ever was one.