MUTV commentator Stewart Gardner reviews Wayne Rooney's stellar - and steely - performance against Hull City...
There aren’t too many advantages to losing the world's best player. But one positive from Cristiano Ronaldo's exit is that Wayne Rooney is now indisputedly United’s main man - and he clearly relishes that.
At times last season Rooney’s striking prowess was sacrificed for Ronaldo - he'd go wide left, for example, so the Portuguese could play through the middle. Of course, Wayne always gave his all and had plenty of effective games on the wing. But there is no doubt that his best position is through the middle. Last season, he ended up with 20 goals in all competitions, a more than respectable return. But he’s reached that tally already in this campaign and we’re still in January. He’s an absolute certainty to beat his best-ever season total of 23.
We all witnessed something pretty special at Old Trafford on Saturday. It’s more than a decade since a United player scored four goals in a league match. Rooney told me he was probably 12 when he last scored four!
It's not just goals that make Rooney so irreplaceable for the Reds. He grabs games by the scruff of the neck and inspires those around him. Often United seem to win games through the sheer force of his personality. Hull must be sick of the sight of him. Last month he almost single-handedly led United to victory at the KC Stadium and then he fires four past them 27 days later at OT.
Personally, I was glad to see on Saturday that there’s still a bit of devilment in his game. There’s no doubt he’s cooled down his temperament over the years but he’s not the same player without a bit of fire, as Hull's Stephen Hunt found out on Saturday. Rooney lost possession, the red mist descended and he chased after Hunt before clattering into him and getting a booking. Not ideal of course, but it does make the pulse quicken a bit when Rooney is riled. And he's also not afraid to remonstrate with his own team-mates Roy Keane-style as Darron Gibson found out!
You could argue that United are over-reliant on Rooney. But let’s not worry about that too much and just enjoy watching a player who’s approaching the peak of his powers. He would