Has Wayne Rooney Saved Van Gaal's United Career?

Has Wayne Rooney Saved Van Gaal's United Career?

Cometh the hour; Cometh the Wayne. It’s been far too long since we have had to say that, but the moment has finally come. Manchester United managed to end their 8-game win-less run on Saturday at Old Trafford against their bogey team Swansea City who are still without a permanent manager. After a dismal December, United went into this game in their worst form for decades and it is not inconceivable to say anything but a win on Saturday would have chimed the death knell for the manager Louis Van Gaal. The Red Devils pulled themselves together with a scrappy yet much deserved win against the Swans, that has now taken them up to fifth in the table, two points shy of fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur.

Rooney Saved Van Gaal Career

Manchester United started the game at a good tempo similar to when they played against Chelsea – quick, short passing, moved the ball to the wide areas trying to create space in the box for Wayne Rooney to run into. Louis Van Gaal did make an interesting decision to start with what looked like three at the back – to push Ashley Young further up the pitch to have more of an influence in the final third. It was risky considering how Swansea’s front line try to hassle the back three/four but it paid off as most of United’s attacking play on Saturday happened on the right flank when Ashley Young was constantly tormenting Taylor, a series of mini-duels, which finally, led to a goal for the home side early into the second half.

Manchester United played more directly in the second half after a good first half ended fruitless without the goals to show. Anthony Martial was at his fluid best, marauding that left flank with pace and poise, leaving Angel Rangel in his wake quite a few times in the game. His innate ability to be in the right position at the right time showed when he converted a neat header for the first goal, the like of which he scored in the Champions League tie against CSKA Moscow, in Moscow. As United switched to a back four by bringing on Darmian for Phil Jones in the second half, Young’s influence on the hosts’ attack grew several bounds as he constantly found himself getting to the byline, providing crosses into the box, troubling a visibly incoherent Swansea defence.

Rooney and Martial - Shots on Goal v Swansea City

A game that ultimately gave the players and all the more so the manager, some breathing space, also brought a sense of relief to the talisman, Wayne Rooney, who could not have picked a better time to score a goal as good as that. It’s no doubt that Rooney’s drought in front of goal was as worrying as Manchester United’s inability to win football matches in December but his back-heel flick after a Sigurdsson equalizer, could just have been one of the most important goals he has scored in recent years – and that’s not just because the goal also happened to be of the record-breaking variety when you look at the bigger picture. As Rooney capped off a fine performance with his 238th career goal for Manchester United – only 11 short of the great Bobby Charlton himself, he reminded everyone in that stadium, and around the world, that he still had it in his locker – to produce truly special moments.

Image Courtesy - telegraph.com

Manchester United, though, stuttered to the finish line in truth, but still played one of their best games of the season, statistically. They created 13 chances from open play, attempting 19 shots on goal and completing 147 out of 187 passes in the final third. It is definitely an improvement and things could get even better if they can repeat this performance against Sheffield United in the 3rd round of the FA Cup at home, the following weekend – a trophy they last won in 2004. Louis Van Gaal, pleased with his side’s ability to fight under pressure, especially when his captain had been the man leading the fight, leading from the front. He said,

“All the players have done their utmost best and that is very important for the manager. I think the first half was a better half than the second. The difference was we scored the goals and then everyone is saying the second half is better. The second half is better because we scored two fantastic goals but as a team our performance in the first half was better. We don’t give any chances away in the first half and we played with three defenders.”   

Momentum and confidence are key in any successful football side and Manchester United showed why they are, when they endured that difficult run of results, struggling to win games against teams they should be beating on paper. With that win, they can look forward, and the manager Louis Van Gaal shall do well to keep his side upbeat and focused to go on a good run – in what should be a tricky set of fixtures that includes 4 out of the next 6 league outings away from Old Trafford. As for now, his career looks saved – by none other than his commander in chief.