Rooney’s new role

Reds cap­tain wants to be the next Sc­holes

The Daily Telegraph - Total Football - - FRONT PAGE - James Ducker NORTH­ERN FOOT­BALL COR­RE­SPON­DENT at Wem­b­ley

Wayne Rooney ex­pressed hope that a new era at Manch­ester United was slowly be­ing ush­ered in and Ander Herrera sug­gested they were “cook­ing up a fan­tas­tic team”.

It took Michael Car­rick to sound a note of cau­tion and re­mind peo­ple that only a fort­night ear­lier “every­thing was a dis­as­ter” in the wake of a 3-0 de­feat at Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur that dealt a dam­ag­ing blow to United’s prospects of a top-four fin­ish. “This doesn’t change the whole thing,” the mid­fielder said af­ter An­thony Mar­tial’s won­der­ful stop­page-time win­ner against Ever­ton on Satur­day swept United into their first FA Cup fi­nal for nine years.

There is a per­sua­sive case to ar­gue that Louis van Gaal has stum­bled upon a promis­ing for­mula by ac­ci­dent rather than de­sign and, with Jose Mour­inho ready and will­ing to step in, even a Cup tri­umph against Crys­tal Palace on May 21 may not be enough to earn the Dutchman an­other stab at things next sea­son.

Van Gaal of­fered a cu­ri­ous re­sponse when asked about the po­ten­tial of the club’s vi­brant young gen­er­a­tion, spear­headed by Mar­tial, Mar­cus Rash­ford and Jesse Lin­gard and shored up at the back by goal­keeper David de Gea and, no doubt when he re­turns from in­jury, Luke Shaw. “We need quick, crea- tive play­ers,” the man­ager said. “That’s a tricky re­mark of me be­cause I have to man­age play­ers whose qual­ity is not al­ways what I want.”

Van Gaal’s com­ment con­ve­niently ig­nores a few hard truths. He signed the sort of “quick, cre­ative” player he craves at great ex­pense in Án­gel di María but could not man­age the Ar­gentina winger and sold him af­ter a year.

An­other wide player pur­chased for a hefty fee – Mem­phis De­pay – has fallen flat. And the en­tire squad has been re­shaped very much to his choos­ing. Ul­ti­mately, though, he has been res­cued time and again by young­sters who have played far more than he planned (Mar­tial) or been thrown in un­ex­pect­edly (Rash­ford, Lin­gard) be­cause of a de­bil­i­tat­ing in­jury list and some ques­tion­able trans­fer de­ci­sions.

Still, it was out of dark ori­gins that Rooney and Cris­tiano Ron­aldo emerged over a decade ago to lead United into a bright new dawn, and while ex­pec­ta­tions should be tem­pered, there are green shoots of re­cov­ery.

Rooney knows what it is like to be a teenage su­per­star, hav­ing joined United from Ever­ton at 18, and said he feels a re­spon­si­bil­ity to cul­ti­vate and ca­jole Mar­tial, Rash­ford and oth­ers now in much the same way as Ryan Giggs helped to nur­ture his Old Traf­ford ca­reer.

“When I joined the club at 18, Gig­gsy was about 30 and I saw the help and ad­vice he gave me at that age so if I can help those young play­ers in any way now I’m happy to do that,” the United and Eng­land cap­tain said.

“Play­ing at Man United, whether you’re 18 or 30, you have to take some sort of re­spon­si­bil­ity and the young lads are han­dling that re­ally well. Ob­vi­ously it’s early days, es­pe­cially for Rash­ford, but the im­pact he has had has been huge for us.

“With the start An­thony had he wasn’t go­ing to go on like that for the whole sea­son but he is com­ing up with some big goals and you can see the en­joy­ment in his game.

“I’ve been help­ing them but not only that – they can help me as well. You’re al­ways learn­ing.”

Rooney cer­tainly seemed at home in a free-roam­ing mid­field po­si­tion, and as a de­bate rages over whether he should start up front for Eng­land at Euro 2016, a new role has pro­vided some fresh food for thought for man­ager Roy Hodg­son.

“I have played with and watched Paul Sc­holes in that role for years and I al­ways knew that one day it is where I would play so I have tried to learn and watch what he did,” Rooney said. “I don’t know [if I can play there for Eng­land]. That is a de­ci­sion for Roy Hodg­son.”

United fash­ioned mul­ti­ple chances, then made life dif­fi­cult for them­selves af­ter Chris Smalling’s own goal nul­li­fied Marouane Fel­laini’s first-half strike, be­fore Mar­tial claimed that last-gasp win­ner.

Romelu Lukaku will rue two spurned op­por­tu­ni­ties as well as his missed penalty (al­beit bril­liantly saved by De Gea) but Ever­ton man­ager Roberto Martínez, like Van Gaal a man un­der pres­sure, could at least take com­fort from his team’s spir­ited sec­ond-half show­ing.

It was United’s day though, and Rooney be­lieves vic­tory in the fi­nal would be the spur the club needs. “It could be mas­sive for us and would hope­fully be the start of us get­ting back and win­ning tro­phies,” he said. “It is al­most a new squad we have and we haven’t had it easy over the last cou­ple of years so if we win the Cup it will be a huge step­ping stone for us.”

Pulling the strings: Wayne Rooney thrives in a free-roam­ing mid­field role

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