One win is all it has taken to turn Manchester United’s worries into their usual apiration of winning the league, rather than hoping for a top four spot, which is the way this season had panned out for the Red Devils so far. The 1-0 win over Arsenal, inspired by an outstanding Man of the Match performance by Wayne Rooney, has lifted United to 5th in the league, helping them overtake rivals Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.
Rooney’s phenomenal work rate and mentality throughout the fixture is hard to express in statistics but the fact that the centre forward managed to run a total of 11.1 km in 90 minutes is enough to illustrate how much the game meant to him and how much he wanted to take the 3 points by the end of the game.
The England International’s desire to win was in his defensive work and key moments in the game were when Rooney threw his body on the line in the style of a traditional centre-back to close down and force the Gunners’ new signing Mesut Ozil into rushing his shot and hitting the side netting from close range. Another example in the final minutes of the match, Wayne was still chasing down the ball across Arsenal’s back line eventually gaining possession and breaking up play, preventing Arsenal from creating any final goal scoring chances. Stats suggest his tackling was minimal, after he only made two successful tackles in the 90 minutes he was on the pitch; however, I feel that most of his defensive game was his positioning, shutting the man with possession down in a way that forced them to make errors, and stopping Arsenal from gaining any momentum and entering their usual fluid style of play, which I think could have seen them break down a weakened Man Utd defence after Nemanja Vidic exited the field of play at half time after a head injury.
Onto Wayne’s passing game on Sunday: he made 27 accurate open play passes out of 34 and managing to use such a range of passes with 100% of long balls reaching their targets (5/5), spraying balls from side to sideand allowing him to dictate play, pinning the Gunners back in their own half, and dare I say it giving his game a sort of Paul Scholes look. This success was highly important for United’s win as in such a low scoring game, doing the basics right such as passing kept the 75,000 fans inside Old Trafford entertained, and as per usual vs. Arsenal made Wayne Rooney the stand out man in the fixture.
Bringing his assist total for the season to 4, the highest in the Man Utd squad so far, he managed to set up his strike partner Robin Van Persie, allowing him to score in the fixture for the 5th consecutive time. The goal itself was a second chance at what had previously been tried seconds earlier when Rooney whipped the ball into the box in search of Van Persie and the ball was headed out of play for a corner by the Arsenal defence, Rooney then went across to take the corner sending the ball into the box again, this time finding the flying Dutchman whom glanced the ball with his head into the top corner of the goal.
With one obvious opportunity bound to fall to Rooney he unfortunately could not capitalise on the chance, and failed to increase his goal tally vs. Arsenal. As the ball fell to his feet on the edge of the box, he dropped his shoulder, faked a shot past Bacary Sagna, and opened up a one on one before narrowly putting the shot wide. With his shooting accuracy down to 33% and only shooting ever 30 minutes, Wayne still has some to go to be competing for the Golden boot versus the likes of Sturrige, Suarez and collegue, RVP. On the other hand, with the influence he brings to the squad Rooney’s focus should no longer be scoring goals and with ecstatic performances built around this example of endeavour, Man United have revived their title hopes and now David Moyes has something to smile about.