Manchester United vs. Stoke: Wayne Rooney's Resurgence Promising for Red Devils

Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistOctober 20, 2012

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 20:  Wayne Rooney of Manchester United celebrates scoring to make it 1-1 during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Stoke City at Old Trafford on October 20, 2012 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Behind a scintillating two-goal performance from striker Wayne Rooney, Manchester United defeated an over-matched Stoke City club 4-2 to get a critical three points on Saturday.

The victory puts the Red Devils just three points behind Chelsea in the overall standings and allowed them to keep pace with Manchester City, who got a critical 2-1 victory on Saturday playing with 10 men, for second. 

Regardless, the long-term takeaway from Saturday was Rooney's resurgent performance and what that could mean for Alex Ferguson's club going forward. 

Coming into Saturday's fixture, the 26-year-old Englishman had struggled mightily to create any significant offense. In fact, Rooney's frustrating start led many to wonder whether he was simply in the midst of a lost season. 

That early malaise lasted for longer than expected, as Rooney failed to score a goal in any Manchester United contests before Saturday.

Nonetheless, the Devils striker was in fine form against Stoke, and it showed in the final score.

Other than an own goal from Rooney in the 11th minute, Manchester United dominated offensively from the opening pitch. The Devils out-shot the Potters 16-9 and controlled possession for 65 percent of the contest, leaving little room for Stoke to mount a comeback. 

Leading that charge was Rooney, who was on fire for the entire match (own goal excluded), scoring goals in the 27th and 65th minutes and helping the attack down the field. 

Those two goals gave the superstar striker 200 in his club career, and Rooney also became the first player to score at both ends in a Premier League game for United since David Beckham 11 years ago.

For those looking for a reason why Rooney's play has improved, look no further than his spot on England's national team.

The striker (temporarily) took the captain's armband from suspended star Steven Gerrard and scored two goals in England's 5-0 victory against San Marino on Oct. 12. That was Rooney's first time finding the back of the net since June and has seemingly sparked a massive uptick in performance.

Rooney has now scored goals in three straight matches and his resurgence could not have come at a better time for United.

The next two weeks will be critical for the Devils in Premier League play, as they take on Chelsea on Oct. 28 and Arsenal on Nov. 3. Getting three points in those matches should put United in, at worst, a tie atop the standings.

Vital to nabbing those key wins will be the play of Rooney and fellow striker Robin van Persie, who also scored on Saturday.

If these two talented strikers, who combined for a whopping 57 goals in 2011-12, play up to their potential, there may be no squad that can stop them.

Saturday's dominance was a promising sign, but continuing that play going forward is what will be the difference between a fifth championship in seven years or bitter end to the season for United.