Make the most of pellegrini’s soft centre!
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.”