Wayne Rooney Continues to Prove Vital for Manchester United in Times of Need

Rob DawsonManchester United CorrespondentDecember 27, 2013

HULL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26: Wayne Rooney of Manchester United looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Hull City and Manchester United at KC Stadium on December 26, 2013 in Hull, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The best heroes always arrive just in the nick of time and Wayne Rooney has form for turning up just when Manchester United need it most.

When Ruud van Nistelrooy left Old Trafford for Real Madrid in the summer of 2006, the following season Rooney recorded the highest goal tally of his blossoming professional career.

When they lost Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009, it was Rooney who picked up the baton—scoring 34 goals in 44 games during the next campaign.

MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 24:  Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney of Manchester United share a joke during a Manchester United training session held at the Carrington Training Complex on November 24, 2008 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Ale
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

This season, with Robin van Persie struggling for form and fitness and Old Trafford in desperate need of inspiration after Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement, it has again been Rooney who has dragged United from the depths of mediocrity. 

If they finish in the top four this season or make an unlikely charge at the title or the Champions League, Rooney will have played his part.

Because he burst into our consciousness at such a young age there is a temptation to always think of him as the impudent boy who broke through at Everton.

But David Moyes told the Manchester Evening News he has seen Rooney grow into a new role.

Do you know what I see more than anything in Wayne? I see leadership.

I see somebody who wants to take responsibility for the team. I see somebody who cares for how he plays and how the team plays. More than anything that is what I see from Wayne.

Maybe if he is not quite at the top of his form, I will need him to drop in at times and he has no problem doing any of the jobs.

He is getting to an age now where he realises he is not a boy any more. He is one of the senior men in the team.

He is actually on the verge of being one of the great legends at this club.

Because of that I think he is saying I have got to take responsibility for results and for performances and make sure the players are doing it on the pitch.

The players are responding. In the dressing room now Wayne is one of those who is beginning to call the shots.

Until Rooney signs an extension to stay at Old Trafford there will be question marks over his future. But his commitment this season can't be faulted, even when Moyes has occasionally asked him to drop into midfield.

Some might not agree with his methods—the arguing with officials, the fierce challenges—but he has led from the front. It can be just as inspiring as goals like the wonderful volley against Hull.

HULL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26:  Wayne Rooney (R) of Manchester United shoots and scores his sides second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Hull City and Manchester United at KC Stadium on December 26, 2013 in Hull, England.  (Photo by Ma
Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

It's perhaps to be expected from one of United's few genuine world-class players, but there's a big difference between expecting and delivering.

Rooney has had poor seasons at United before, sometimes because of injury and sometimes when his form has deserted him. But he's always performed when they've needed him most.

He is United's protagonist, turning up just in time to save the day.