The all-around team performance was arguably the best of the David Moyes’ era, but right at the forefront, once more, was Wayne Rooney.
5 - Man Utd have now equalled the biggest margin of victory ever by an English team away in the CL (Chelsea v Galatasaray 5-0 '99). Rampant.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 27, 2013
In the absence of the spine of the team—Nemanja Vidic, Michael Carrick and Robin van Persie—Rooney, like so often this season, stood out from the rest.
The Englishman failed to get on the scoresheet, but he was the difference-maker at the BayArena. He bagged three assists in his 84 minutes on the pitch, which brings him level with Angel Di Maria atop the assist’s table with a total of five in Europe’s premier competition this term.
It’s hard to believe that, just five months ago, the former Everton man reportedly handed in a transfer request—per ESPN FC. And, his performances in recent weeks have prompted United fans to ponder where the club would be if they had lost him.
Without Rooney we will be at the 15th place in the EPL and already out of the UCL #MUFC— Adnen Bo (@redkyng) November 27, 2013
Man Utd would be struggling without Rooney. Moyes did a good job to keep him!— Jonathan Read (@Jonathan_Pafc) November 27, 2013
The forward is at his best when he has a point to prove. He appears to be the type of guy who comes out punching when his back is against the wall, and after a year in the shadow of van Persie, Rooney has come demanding the spotlight this season.
The No. 10 looks fitter, sharper and more composed on the ball, and Moyes must be given credit for his transformation this season.
Rooney has excelled in the unshackled, playmaker role. His incessant movement makes him very difficult to mark, and his range of passing has looked more refined.
The 28-year-old scored 22 goals and assisted 14 throughout the entire 2012-13 season—per ESPN FC. This campaign, his record stands at 12 goals and 12 assists, and it’s not yet December.
More from Smalling on Rooney: "You can see the hunger and passion in the way he plays. That has an effect on the whole squad." #mufc— Manchester United (@ManUtd) November 26, 2013
The Red Devils currently sit sixth in the Premier League table, seven points off of the top spot, but without Rooney, the situation would look bleaker.
Rooney—and to a lesser extent van Persie—has, at times, papered over the cracks at Old Trafford because, without the ball, the champions have looked fragile.
The sheer ease with which opponents have found ways through the United midfield will be a worry for Moyes. The gaping space between the back line and the midfield has allowed oppositions the freedom to roam forward uninhibited.
Who is more important to Manchester United?
In their last five Premier League games, United have allowed 67 shots to rain down on David de Gea’s goal, so last-minute equalisers like the one conceded against Cardiff City should come as no surprise.
Moyes hasn’t been helped by injuries, but he will need to settle on a central midfield pairing and plug the holes in his defence if United are to keep the pressure on those above them in the table.
Naturally, it takes time and patience for a coach to successfully stamp his style on a new team, and Rooney’s performances have gifted Moyes with both.
Where would United be without the Englishman? Well, luckily for Red Devils’ fans, that’s not a question that needs answering. Just yet.