Rooney`s schoolboy trick is United`s old master at work
Manchester: A moment of perfect timing, agility and sheer audacity marked the return of Wayne Rooney`s instinct for goal as he propelled Manchester United nearer to the Premier League title on Saturday.
He jumped, twisted his body and stretched his right leg to unleash an overhead volley that he described as the greatest goal he had ever scored and one that secured a 2-1 win over Manchester City in a fascinating derby at Old Trafford.
"I saw it come in the box and just thought why not?" said Rooney. "Thankfully it went in the top corner."
"Nine times out of 10 they go over the crossbar or wide," he told Sky Sports. "I didn`t have time to think about what I wanted to do. I`ve not scored an overhead since school."
He stood arms stretched out and looking skywards as he let the chants of "Roon-ey, Roon-ey" wash over him as United fans forgot about his often troubled season and gave him the sort of reception he used to get when he could do no wrong.
Injury, off-field problems and the saga over his contract have marred a season in which he has scored only six goals and his confidence had seemed to have been knocked after 34 goals last term.
Two goals against Aston Villa earlier this month showed the tide was turning and any doubts over his self-belief were banished with the type of wonder strike most players would only dare to experiment with on the training ground.
"I`ve not seen anything like it that`s for sure," said United manager Alex Ferguson. "Stunning, unbelievable."
Even City boss Roberto Mancini could only watch in awe.
"We should clap," the Italian told a news conference. "Incredible, a fantastic goal."
It is probably too soon to talk about the complete Rooney of old returning as his performance in much of the rest of the match was second-best to lively winger Nani, who had the better chances and also scored the first goal.
"I was not that pleased with my overall performance today but the lads said just stay up there in the box and you`ll get a chance," said Rooney. "Thankfully I put it away."
It is not too soon, though, to say Rooney is finding his goals at just the right time in the season as United seek a record 19th league title.
While the England striker has been struggling for form, Dimitar Berbatov has taken over the goalscoring mantle and a few eyebrows were raised when the league`s top scorer was left on the bench on Saturday.
The tactic paid off ultimately with the victory but in fact United looked more comfortable going forward when Berbatov was introduced midway through the second half as a cluttered midfield suddenly had more room to manoeuvre.
Ferguson said the challenge now was for his strikers to find the net more away from home since at Old Trafford they have dropped only two points this season.
"What I need from Wayne and Berbatov is performances away from home."
"They have not been as good as they have been at home and that`s a quandary because the ability those two have they should be dictating games away from home for us because when they do they will make a hell of a difference."