Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney returns for the Red Devils' clash against Manchester City at the weekend and it’s very likely that he will walk straight back into the starting XI.
The 29 year-old was given the captain's armband by Louis Van Gaal at the beginning of the season and with his comments stating the captain has “privileges”, Rooney is expected to partner Robin van Persie in attack.
In 2012/2013, the pair enjoyed a successful season together and they helped United land their 20th league title. Sir Alex Ferguson then retired and despite a frustrating last 12 months, Van Gaal is trying to get the pair back firing with Colombian Radamel Falcao also alongside them.
Rooney’s return was never in question with the Manchester derby one of the biggest games on the calendar. But should he just walk back into the side when United just drew 1-1 with Chelsea?
His three-match ban picked up against West Ham United has only just ended due to the international break, but since then United have gone three games unbeaten. They’ve defeatedEverton 2-1 while drawing with West Bromwich Albion 2-2 prior to Sunday’s draw with Chelsea.
Goals have been scored but the side are still conceding which is a worry, with City possessing the threat of Sergio Aguero and David Silva.
Rooney’s last two games saw him play Leicester City and West Ham and during both games he looked threatening with his goals and assists helping United to five goals.
His all-round performance of tracking back and helping the defence is admired around Old Trafford and that will be the difference come Sunday, should he start.
Van Gaal has a decision to make, with Juan Mata also enjoying some game time in the number 10 role. The Spaniard has failed to prove himself with his performances leaving the Dutchman with no other alternative than to sub him midway through the second half but he could still start against City.
The former Chelsea midfielder signed for £37 million in January, but is still yet to shine under the lights at Old Trafford. His goals have all come against opposition in the bottom half of the table and that’s not enough for someone of his quality.
Rooney, 29, is proven in big games and his never say die attitude is what United need on Sunday as they aim to overturn back-to-back defeats against the Citizens.
With United likely to play 4-3-3, Marouane Fellaini will keep his place meaning United could line up like this on Sunday.
Mata is the man expected to be dropped and nobody will complain. Rooney is needed for his attacking impetus but also for his defensive work which will be essential on a big pitch.
The stats suggest Mata offers more in attack than the England captain. The Spaniard’s link-up play and pass success rate is better than Rooney’s but he doesn’t affect the game enough. Rooney has only managed a pass success rate of 84% this season but judging by his 10 years in the Premier League, the 29 year-old has never based his game on possession.
Mata has created more chances this season with 1.57 per game to the Englishman’s 0.89 but Rooney has scored and assisted more which is the most important statistic for a player behind the striker.
What gets you noticed in attack is your ability to help the side win games, and Rooney does that on a consistent basis which is partly the reason he was awarded the armband.
Danny Welbeck was sold due to his goalscoring record being worse than Van Persie’s and Rooney’s and that is just another indication of the England striker’s importance.
United’s opposition are likely to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation and David Silva will be ordered to pull the strings with Samir Nasri likely to return. The Frenchman has recovered from a groin injury that kept him sidelined for a month and he may start, with his experience of playing in big games.
United are expected to play Fellaini, Ander Herrera and Daley Blind in midfield and the trio will need to work hard in containing Yaya Toure and Silva. Fellaini provides that physical presence United need while Herrera and Blind distribute the ball well.
One of City’s flaws this season is that they’re open to the counter attack. Van Gaal could install that tactic in the side with Chelsea and Tottenham enjoying some success in their games at the Etihad and Rooney would be ideal to that plan.
United have the pace with Di Maria and with Van Persie receiving a belated confidence boost, the Red Devils could be a real threat. Rooney’s scored many great goals in his career and if you look back to when he played alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, United scored many trademark counter attacking goals.
Yes, Rooney has lost half a yard of pace but his intelligence is still there and it’s the perfect time for the United captain to announce his return.
And with three points a must, the 29 year-old couldn't ask for a better game to fire the 20-time champions back into Champions League contention.