Two months into the 2012-2013 season, you might say that Wayne Rooney is finally beginning his campaign, picking up his first Premier League goals of the season in another performance that reminded everyone of what he can do for a Manchester United team that needs all the scoring it can get.
Because despite having a wide variety of strikers and wingers who can all score and lay the groundwork for others, weak and soft defending simply puts United in some sort of hole nearly every match. Rio Ferdinand made Alex Ferguson angry enough before the match by not wearing the anti-racism shirts, and his poor efforts in stopping Michael Kightly surging towards goal must have been disappointing to watch as well. This isn’t the first or second time this season we’ve seen Ferdinand simply collapse while trying to hang on to an attacker, as his pace and own aging body betrays him again and again.
But for United, it’s about attacking. A relevation that occured to Ferguson during the 2-3 loss against Tottenham. With the current crop of players, having a midfield that retains possession in a slow, careful passing game is simply asking for trouble and putting unnecessary pressure on slow players who can’t react to quick counter attacking.
Instead, he shifts the balance towards all of his talent. Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney up front, Antonio Valencia and Danny Welbeck on the wings. Having Van Persie and Rooney being so versatile, able to switch positions, drifting forward to become target men or behind to become the set up guys allows a lot of room for confusion, which is added when you thrown in the speed in which they do things once they get in the dangerous zones for oppositions.
Stoke may have scored early through their usual physical pressure in the box, giving Wayne Rooney a taste of what scoring an own goal is, but United were relentless throughout the match in their pressure and constant presence in the Stoke City box. United’s strength has always been its wing play, and Antonio Valencia was at his best, as human dynamo rampaging through the right wing and creating chance after chance for Van Persie and Wayne Rooney, who don’t need that much to go on the scoreboard.
In the midfield, Scholes and Carrick were mistake free, which is saying a lot this season. Of course, there was the opportunity that allowed Kightly to score and mount some pressure on United’s attack to return the favor, but on a day like this, Wayne Rooney was bound to score more.
Some said during the week that his future with United isn’t looking so bright, as Shinji Kagawa will take over his midfielding roles and skills while Van Persie provides the better option as a finisher. Maybe it provided the birthday boy (celebrating 27) to put up his best performance of the season. Maybe it was just time off his injury and bad preparation for the season doing its thing, and things for United (six wins in eight matches) will look even better from now on, struggling defense or not.