herald

Thursday 25 April 2019

rooney can prosper with angel at his side

MONEY well spent. Louis van Gaal proved that you cannot deny quality and the ability of good, professional footballers to make an immediate impact on a struggling team.

Angel di Maria scattered a bit of sparkle and some certified quality and suddenly, all over the pitch, players rose to meet him. Wayne Rooney was clearly delighted to have players on the pitch with telephone number transfer fees.

The fee is nothing more than an indicator and in di Maria's case, a pretty good one. For that kind of cash, you expect a player who can switch it on without any 'settling in' period.

Increasingly, we see players like that nowadays. Gone is the time when a player was allowed a decent amount of time to feel his way into a new squad. On demand is the attitude and that is what di Maria provided for van Gaal.

Rooney has had many seasons when he was the biggest name at Old Trafford and yesterday, it looked to me like a weight lifted off his shoulders.

It seems an odd thing to say, given the fact that he is now the England captain and wears the armband for United too.

But they are largely ceremonial things and perhaps they have given him a bit of confidence. For all his talent, he's a player who needs encouragement.

The main lift he has received is to find men on the training pitch who can play on the same level as himself.

Cast your mind back to 2011 when a badly out of sorts Rooney told Alex Ferguson he would cross the city for big money if he didn't come up with the salary he believed he was worth.

It was a pretty crude bargaining position but during the public part of the negotiation, Rooney called Ferguson out on the issue of ambition.

It attracted a lot of attention and derision, if memory serves me right. The idea that Rooney, at less than his best, should question a living legend was almost unthinkable and when Ferguson caved in and got him the cash, I think many felt an inkling of the decline to come.

Rooney wanted to know where all the big-money signings were and why the club wasn't investing in the same level of talent which was pouring into Manchester City at the time.

I have to admit that at the time, I thought he was a perfect example of the modern day football millionaire, divorced from reality and arrogant to the point of stupidity.

Hindsight tells us that maybe Rooney was right. Maybe he sensed a drift and called it right. Since then, Robin van Persie and not much else.

The intervening years saw Ferguson wring the very most he could out of old defenders and brash youngsters and there was nothing left by the time David Moyes got his chance.

Imagine what it must have been like to be Rooney, training with a plodder like Michael Carrick and watching young, gangly defenders and promising lads like Phil Jones asked to do man's work?

To be fair to Rooney, he responded to Robin van Persie's presence and I feel that the same will happen now that van Gaal has found some soldiers.

QPR were the perfect team for van Gaal to come up against and di Maria carved them open. It was a handy game to bed his new players in and he must have been really pleased to see the way Rooney and Juan Mata suddenly came alive and the way the crowd lifted.

Van Gaal is nowhere near out of the woods but he suddenly has a squad which can compete in a meaningful way.

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