Make the most of pel­le­grini’s soft cen­tre!

Wilmslow Express - - SPORT -

UNITED’S derby homework pin­pointed City’s Achilles heel – and the Reds took full ad­van­tage.

Cap­tain Wayne Rooney has re­vealed that manager Louis van Gaal and his man­age­ment team had iden­ti­fied ahead of Sun­day’s 4-2 derby win that some of Manuel Pel­le­grini’s en­gine room were not putting in a shift chas­ing op­po­nents.

“We know some City play­ers are not the best at track­ing back and de­fend­ing and track­ing run­ners and we felt we could make them pay for that – and we did,” said Rooney.

“We have got play­ers who can score goals from mid­field and, to be hon­est, we felt that was go­ing to win us the game and it was proved to be.”

For ar­guably the first time in Yaya Toure’s fouryear ca­reer at the Blues, the Reds won the mid­field battle at Old Traf­ford and United’s en­gine room pro­vided three of their goals in the 4-2 victory.

Ash­ley Young scored the first, Marouane Fel­laini put United into a 2-1 lead and Juan Mata con­trib­uted a third.

Of United’s 11 goals in the crit­i­cal pe­riod that has seen the Reds beat Spurs, Liver­pool, As­ton Villa and City, the mid­field has pro­vided nine.

Fel­laini has scored twice, with his derby header adding to his hit against Spurs to bring his to­tal for the sea­son to six.

It’s a con­trast to last term when he en­dured a night­mare de­but cam­paign af­ter sign­ing from Ever­ton for £27m and failed to break his goal duck. But the Bel­gian has bat­tled through ad­ver­sity to be­come a key man in Van Gaal’s re­vival.

“He is get­ting used in the right way,” said Rooney. “He is a hand­ful for de­fend­ers to mark.

“We like to play out from the back and if teams are press­ing us then we have him as an op­tion.

“He is prob­a­bly the best in world foot­ball at bring­ing the ball down and get­ting us out of that pres­sure and fur­ther up the pitch.

“He is be­ing used in the right way by the manager and he is re­pay­ing the manager with goals and good per­for­mances. Last year was aw­ful for him but, in fair­ness, he kept his head down, worked hard and has come through that tough pe­riod. He is show­ing now what he did at Ever­ton and why Manch­ester United bought him. He is a qual­ity player. He is a dif­fer­ent op­tion for us. It is start­ing to show on the pitch.

“It was tough for him but he had the whole team’s sup­port. We knew he was work­ing hard and it wasn’t just him strug­gling last sea­son. A lot of us were. He was the one who took most of the blame for it. It was hard for him. Thank­fully the manager has shown faith in him.

“He is al­ways a goal threat, which he is show­ing now. He is awk­ward to mark. It is great for him and we hope it con­tin­ues.”

United’s sea­son was at a cross­roads when they were beaten in the quar­ter­fi­nal of the FA Cup at Old Traf­ford last month ahead of a high-pro­file spell of league games.

But they’ve come through the first part of the ex­am­i­na­tion with a 100 per cent record in four matches to com­fort­ably reach third place.

Fi­nally Van Gaal’s phi­los­o­phy has sunk in and now they face the tough­est test at Satur­day tea-time as they travel to Chelsea.

“We said ear­lier on in the sea­son that we were work­ing on things and it was go­ing to take time,” Rooney added. “It is start­ing to show now. We could see in train­ing the qual­ity we were show­ing and it was a case of get­ting that into the games. We are start­ing to show what we can do.

“It is a big test for us at Chelsea, but we are con­fi­dent. We are in a good run of form and have beaten some good teams.

“They are top of the league. We just have to try to win our games and fin­ish as high as we can.

“We are still a work in progress. We are still learn­ing.”

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