Rooney strikes and Van Gaal will breathe a sigh of relief
United's captain gets much-needed goal as Devils come to life
MAN UNITED 3
(Morgan Schneiderlin 18, Ander Herrera 22, Wayne Rooney 62)
History has invariably burdened Wayne Rooney this season.
The milestones and parallels of Manchester United's great and good have understandably taken their toll.
Without a goal on his travels in the English Premier League since Nov 22 last year and increasingly so at his former Goodison Park home, where he had failed to score since 2007, a repeat performance threatened to ensue last night.
Undeterred, the England captain chose to kill three birds with one stone.
There was little fanfare as relief took hold as he looked to the skies when he struck in the 62nd minute to finish off Everton and confirm United's move into second place in the Premier League standings, temporarily at least.
He became the Premier League's joint second-highest scorer on 187 goals, alongside former teammate Andy Cole, and few would have thought such a striker would have had to endure 330 days and 1,549 minutes of action before finding the target.
Now also the third-highest scorer in United history, having gone past Denis Law now with 171 strikes, neither he nor his teammates will be afforded such freedom by Manchester City next Sunday.
Had he not scored, this would have been rendered another ineffectual performance. With only five goals in all competitions, the former boy wonder has had more than his fair share of those already this season.
But Louis van Gaal was able to rely on goals from midfield, with Ander Herrera and Morgan Schneiderlin delivering timely efforts with relative ease to set Rooney up.
In the absence of strikes by Rooney, diversity in the number of scorers has become an increasing staple of United's attacking play.
More than Rooney's own personal demons were exorcised in his former parish. There was a time when Herrera, too, could do nothing right.
Van Gaal's decision to shackle the Spain international at regular intervals seemed to defy logic, not least among the Old Trafford faithful that have elevated him to cult-level status.
Since he last appeared in Premier League, when Liverpool were clinically beaten last month, United have often lacked the spark and panache that were often prevalent under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Even the club's cook could see which one of the four changes the Dutchman made against Everton would prove the most effective.
The ebullient attacking football which put Everton to the sword was reminiscent of Ferguson's vintage, last bottled on Merseyside in 2011. Its timely return was the perfect tonic after Arsenal's 3-0 minute sucker-punch barely a fortnight ago.
With a sixth goal to complement his assist for Rooney, Herrera is now United's second-highest scorer this calendar year.
Only Juan Mata, the conductor of their attack and a perfect foil for his compatriot, has gone one better - proof, were it needed, of his credentials ahead of next Sunday's showdown.