For much of the season, Manchester United have craved a playmaker who would facilitate in the attack and break down opposing defenses with incisive passing and smart decision-making.
While the star forward didn't manage to score in United's 3-0 win, he was in the middle of the action from start to finish, spearheading the attack and earning an assist on the afternoon in 84 minutes of play. That now brings his total to 11 assists on the season in all competitions to go with his 10 goals.
Can you imagine where United would be without him this season?
While Danny Welbeck starred in this one (two goals) and the return of Darren Fletcher was the feel-good story, Rooney's performance shined through.
He generally played behind Welbeck as an attacking midfielder rather than a forward—at times, he dropped so deep he was playing right in front of the defense—and his overall performance was sparkling. As usual, his work rate was high, he consistently found the play around the pitch and he was generally unselfish in his approach.
Here's his heat map on the afternoon, via Squawka Football:
Wayne Rooney has been dropping a lot deeper today as his heat map highlights. pic.twitter.com/D3xKA2ZLBL— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 15, 2013
He also could have had a first-half goal, but his screaming shot from just outside of the box went just outside of the post. It would have been the cherry on top of a strong performance.
For his efforts, WhoScored.com gave him a 7.6 match rating, though it's a safe bet that if you asked the United players, they might grade him a bit higher than that.
For the season, Rooney has been nothing short of superb. He has an average match rating of 7.62, putting him seventh in the Premier League, according to WhoScored.com, and he's really been the one bright spot for United in a season when little has gone right in the early going.
With Robin van Persie sidelined to injury, Rooney will have to be this team's catalyst. He's been one of the Premier League's top performers thus far. Now, he's tasked with returning Manchester United to the ranks of the league's elite.