The England number 10 was not impressive with his team’s defensive work in the first Manchester derby of the campaign and he had every right to air his grievances given the score line.
“The way we conceded the goals, one just before half-time and two straight after, is not good enough. We know we have to improve on that, to stop giving these sloppy goals away and capitalise on some of our good play, which I thought there was bits of... it just came too late in the game,” he told MUTV in the aftermath of the defeat.
Why does Wayne Rooney have right more than anyone else to be royally miffed about United’s defending? Firstly, Rooney was United’s best player on the pitch by a country mile. He, alone, did not deserve to be on the losing side but, unfortunately for him, his teammates let him down with performances that were well below par for their own usually high standards.
The other significant reason is that this was the first league game this term (first league game in 42, actually) that Rooney has taken on the major responsibility up front ahead of Robin van Persie.
The Dutch ace watched the match from the stands at the Etihad after being withdrawn from David Moyes’ squad with a groin injury – Rooney has been thrust out of the limelight and into the shadow, even so far as the wilderness over the past 12 months, since the arrival of the Golden Boot winner at Old Trafford.
Rooney’s form and fitness had been a major concern at times for retired boss Sir Alex Ferguson last term and had been a contentious matter discussed at length by the press and media throughout last season and this summer.
Rooney had one of his best performances for well over a year for United in their Champions League victory over Bayer Leverkusen last week, following a strong performance against Chelsea earlier on this term – his form, fitness, sharpness and confidence seemed to have returned rejuvenated from a summer of intense speculation and, on Sunday, he had the best opportunity he’ll likely get all season, to show his worth without Van Persie. That was Rooney’s chance to shine.
Unfortunately for him, that defeat will be repressed deep into some dark corner of United fans’ minds and, if anything, what will be remembered is how poor the team performance was – few will remember that Rooney was like a one-man band, ardently trying to salvage something out of the game that was already beyond them by the second half.
His teammates let him down – not just the backline, who were poor, but the midfield and wide players too – when he had the chance to show himself off and be the best of the player he is capable of being without the Dutchman taking all the plaudits for once, not one of his mates gave him even the slightest platform to do so.