Rooney thriving in RVP’s absence

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iol spt dec2 Rooney-Spurs

AP

In the absence of Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney is thriving with the responsibility of leading Manchester Uniteds attack. Photo by: Sang Tan

London – There is something about a World Cup year when Wayne Rooney comes alive and this seductive, captivating cycle has started all over again.

Four years ago, before Fabio Capello’s squad departed on their doomed mission to South Africa, Manchester United’s Rooney was calling the shots in English football.The tributes and the accolades were pouring in as he carried off the PFA players’ player of the year award and the Football Writers’ Footballer of the Year award. He was top dog.

On Sunday, in front of England manager Roy Hodgson, who was nattering away next to Daniel Levy’s son in the upper tier of the West Stand for most of the game, Rooney was at his tantalising best.

There was the sniffer’s chance inside the area that would have made the legendary Leeds striker Allan Clarke proud when he levelled after 31 minutes. Then there was his penalty, a drilled effort down the centre of the goal at the Park Lane end at a time when Tottenham had been turning the screw.

Rooney soaked up the pressure and piled it on poor Andre Villas-Boas.He finished this game with muddy shorts and beads of sweat running off his ruddy face and blotting his red, Nike base layer. By then a souvenir hunter in the Spurs team had already made off with his iconic No 10 jersey.

Everybody wants a piece of him. In years to come a TV company somewhere will put together a montage of his best bits from this game and run Heart of Courage by Two Steps From Hell as the background music.He was seriously good yesterday. The United striker teased us with those fading 40-yard crossfield balls that ping off his right boot and land a few seconds later at the feet of Antonio Valencia or Danny Welbeck.

Then there was delicious dummy on the edge of the area in the second half, an unexpected twist of his body that did Tottenham’s defence up like kippers. He didn’t even touch the ball.In the absence of Robin van Persie, missing again with a groin injury, Rooney is thriving with the responsibility of leading United’s attack.

Just as well because David Moyes’ side are slipping behind, gazing up at the Premier League summit from their uncomfortable base camp.

After 13 games they have made it only as far as eighth in the table: Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City, Southampton, Everton and Newcastle are making steady progress ahead of them.

“This was always going to be a tough game but if you were to say we have let ourselves down it was conceding in the 89th minute against Cardiff last week,” claimed Moyes. “We have had three away games on the bounce, with a win in the Champions League (against Bayer Leverkusen) and two draws. It’s not ideal, but it’s not the worst.”

They did just enough to get a point here. Rooney was the potent threat, a player at the peak of his powers again as United extended their unbeaten run to 12 matches. He is central to everything they do well.

There will be those who are convinced that this rich vein of form is in somehow linked to the looming prospect of another vulgar round of contract talks.The basic mechanics are as follows: he has 18 months left as the highest- paid player in the Premier League on £250,000-a-week. He will want more, United will be reluctant to give a 28-year-old player a five-year deal on increased terms and there will be a compromise somewhere.

In a nutshell, that’s it. “I don’t really know when we will talk but we are fine,” was Moyes’ relaxed summary of Rooney’s position. “We have only just moved on from the summer, but it will be done in good course.”The appropriate people will talk when the time is right.”

On Sunday, Rooney was at his best in front of an old friend in the stands at White Hart Lane. Franco Baldini was England’s general manager under Fabio Capello and he coached Rooney through some difficult moments at that World Cup in South Africa. Baldini’s memento from that tournament is a signed shirt from Rooney, a thank-you note for guiding him through some troubled times in that Rustenburg isolation chamber. This time, Rooney is really looking the part again. – Daily Mail


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