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Old 21st October 2015, 11:40   #1
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Default Wayne Rooney flourishes as Louis van Gaal gets his tactics right at last

Wayne Rooney flourishes as Louis van Gaal gets his tactics right at last

Jim White
6:39PM BST 18 Oct 2015

Manchester United were desperate to make amends for shambolic defeat at Arsenal and did so with a fluent performance against nervy Everton

On the day Howard Kendall, the finest manager in the history of Everton Football Club, died of a heart attack, this was not a worthy commemoration.

A minute's applause in remembrance of Howard Kendall

Nervy, edgy, full of errors, this was the opposite of that day in October 1984 when Kendall’s side eviscerated Manchester United 5-0 in one of the most complete team displays witnessed on this ground.

Thirty-one years on, there was nothing to lift the fug of gloom descending over Goodison. Instead fond memories of Kendall-inspired glories put present travails into stark perspective.

To make matters worse for the incumbent Everton manager, Roberto Martínez, he was facing a team anxious to makes amends after being badly exposed in their last trip on the road.

Here, United were everything they were not at Arsenal a fortnight ago. They were disciplined, organised, quick-witted. And in Wayne Rooney they were led by a player anxious to remind the world that he is not a spent force.

Perhaps because it was not a day to turn on one of their own, the reception for Rooney was the warmest he has received since he left Everton for United 11 seasons ago. Time has softened the sense of betrayal: where once his very name was howled down, here his arrival was greeted with deferential applause. The respect was mutual: when he scored United’s third goal, a joyful piece of pacy counter*attack of a kind the club’s followers had feared was no longer part of their tactical approach, his celebration of his first goal on this ground since 2007 was muted, further fuelling the gathering rumours that he is looking eventually to return home.

“Maybe that’s because it was the third goal,” Martínez said, keen not to inflame the chatter. “It may have been very different if it was a last minute winner. Don’t read too much into that.”

Rooney was aided by a collective United display far more persuasive than the shambles of the Emirates. It helped that their manager, Louis van Gaal, had picked a side tooled for the opposition. Leaving out Memphis Depay and Daley Blind after their traumas with the Dutch team midweek, everywhere his choices looked more appropriate.

Phil Jones and Chris Smalling were physically capable of standing up to the muscular threat of Romelu Lukaku, in Marcos Rojo he had a proper defender playing at left‑back, while Morgan Schneiderlin and Ander Herrera added energy and snap to a midfield which had been overrun in north London.

Herrera in particular gave vivid demonstration of why so many United followers wish to see him start every game. Ambitious, mobile, intelligent, he not only scored, he made an early bid for the assist of the season with a delightful threaded pass in behind Phil Jagielka to his captain. It gave Rooney the opportunity to roll back the years to the time of his prime on this ground.

“He is always running in behind at the right moment and that is more important [than sheer pace],” Van Gaal said. “I was not so fast as Wayne and Wayne is not so fast as Anthony Martial but when you go at the right time then you are always faster than your opponent.”

All of Herrera’s prompting and Rooney’s finishing, however, would have come to nothing without a couple of superb interventions by David de Gea, who blocked shots from Lukaku and Ross Barkley with an aplomb which suggests any unease at the failure of his move to Real Madrid has long passed.

“I do expect that from him,” said Van Gaal. “Everybody was writing that we had a bad relationship but we have a very good relationship.

“I had explained to him why he wasn’t playing [in August] and he was happy with that – not happy that he wasn’t playing – but he understood the decision. And immediately he decided to stay, I picked him for the team again so I gave him a lot of confidence and I always expected him to continue his focus.”

Though it came from the opposition, that, perhaps, was the most vivid reminder here of the Kendall years. As the great man knew from his titan Neville Southall, having a goalkeeper you can rely on makes a manager’s job so much easier.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Martin Luther King
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