Wayne Rooney Must Deliver Heroics to Keep Manchester United in Champions League

Michael Wade@michaelwade_Analyst IIIFebruary 26, 2014

A 2-0 defeat away at Olympiakos wasn't what Manchester United had planned for the first leg of their last-16 Champions League tie.

But then it shouldn't come as a huge surprise after the way the season has gone for the Premier League champions.

David Moyes has lurched from one disaster to another at Old Trafford. Whether it is the potential failure to finish in the top four and the eight league defeats, or the FA Cup third-round defeat against Swansea and the Capital One Cup semi-final defeat to Sunderland, it is hard not to feel sorry for Moyes.

The loss to Olympiakos, though, seemed like a new low, with established United stars such as Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Michael Carrick seemingly bereft of confidence, and Wayne Rooney in a frustrated mood.

If United are to salvage their Champions League hopes from the wreckage, they will need Rooney, who recently committed his future to the club, as reported by BBC Sport. He must inspire the team with some trademark magic, which has been missing from other parts of the pitch in recent times.

Rooney's importance to United was underlined more than ever by the vital statistics of his new contract, not least the reported £300,000 a week that he is now earning.

Thankfully, the result is reversible. And, if anyone is able to capture the comeback spirit, it is United, who have memorably fought back on plenty of occasions in the past, per Mark Ogden in the Telegraph.

They have the players capable of mounting that comeback. The likes of Robin van Persie, Adnan Januzaj, Danny Welbeck and Ashley Young, not to mention the history, stadium, fanbase and pedigree on the European stage.

But Rooney must create more of a partnership with van Persie. The one on display against Olympiakos, as shown below via Daily Mail sport, was almost non-existent:

He must also lead by example, showing why he has been rewarded with a long-term contract, and why he was the subject of serious interest from Chelsea, per Joe Bernstein and Rob Draper at the Daily Mail.

The England international is fourth in the club's all-time goalscoring list, as reported by ITV, but to prove he can be ranked alongside the great names above him—Sir Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and Jack Rowley—he has to influence and rouse a spirited performance from United, which looked beyond them on Tuesday evening.

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