Rooney-Martial partnership finally delivers for United, says Gary Lim
United back to winning ways as Rooney-Martial tandem finally delivers
MAN UNITED 2
(Anthony Martial 47, Wayne Rooney 77)
(Gylfi Sigurdsson 70)
Wayne Rooney couldn't wait to see the back of 2015.
Yesterday, the Manchester United captain showed just why he was so eager to start the new year on a clean slate.
With an audacious backheel flick that rolled back the years, he scored the winning goal to hand the Reds Devils a 2-1 victory over Swansea at Old Trafford.
This was his first English Premier League goal since mid-October.
It was also United's first win in nine games in all competitions.
This was surely the much-maligned striker's best performance in a long while.
Playing up front, he shouldered the main responsibility of a shy United attack which has struggled to find the net this season.
Prior to this match, he had scored just two league goals.
Perhaps all that talk of the 30-year-old being over the hill was premature.
To say that he has turned the corner with this display would be quite a stretch too.
But what better way to end a goal drought and to repair a badly damaged ego with a wonder goal?
United manager Louis van Gaal will be equally delighted with the performance of young Anthony Martial.
Deployed as a wide forward, the 20-year-old Frenchman scored United's opening goal shortly after half-time, and later provided the assist for Rooney's winner.
Given the lively performances by the two frontmen, van Gaal can be quietly optimistic that the Red Devils can improve on their record of scoring just 24 goals in 20 Premiership games.
There was also a simplicity about United's game yesterday that was encouraging.
They ditched the clumsy possession football that drew the ire of even the most devoted of United fans.
They got back to basics, the good old tried-and-tested, push-it-wide and put-it-forward style that proved so deceivingly simple and yet devastatingly effective in the past.
With Ashley Young deployed as a fullback given licence to roam up the flank to provide width, the United attackers were constantly supplied with the ammunition to destroy.
Juan Mata, Ander Herrera and Martial, against opponents content to sit back and wait for the break, especially in the first half, took turns to drive directly through the centre of a shaky Swansea backline.
Rooney also regained his appetite to run at defenders, and there was one moment before the break when his sublime cross-field 50-metre pass suggested that he still has it in him.
United didn't have it all their way though.
Swansea proved stubborn opponents determined to notch their fourth successive win over the Red Devils in all competitions.
Martial's 47th-minute opening goal drew a solid response from the visitors, who then began to come out of their shells.
When Gylfi Sigurdsson, a player more known for his cultured shooting than his heading ability, nodded home the equaliser in the 70th minute, the United fans began to fear the worst.
But, with 13 minutes remaining, Rooney popped up to score perhaps the most important goal of his career.
There is plenty at stake for him this year, as he leads England to the Euro 2016 Finals in June.
Maybe, there is still life left in Rooney after all.
Wayne Rooney’s goal is his 188th in the Premier League, overtaking Andy Cole for the second-most in EPL history. Alan Shearer is the all-time EPL top scorer with 260 goals.