After an aggressive start to the encounter, with Ashley Young, Nani, Danny Welbeck and Rooney all involved in sweeping United moves, it was left to the England forward to land the first blow, with Rooney creating space to drive cooly past former team-mate, Ben Foster in the West Brom goal. While United fans will be hoping the strike was the first of many for the former Everton man, Rooney himself came close to adding to his tally just moments later, firing wide as United looked to take a firm hold on the game.
While the Champions found themselves battling back from a setback, as Shane Long’s effort rolled agonisingly under the delayed dive of Premier League debutant, David de Gea, Rooney led the charge after the interval. After losing the experienced central-defensive pairing of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand to groin and hamstring injuries respectively, Rooney took the captain’s armband and attempted to steady the ship as United pushed for a winner.
Having finally found the decisive strike, albeit slightly fortunately through Baggies defender Steven Reid deflecting Young’s cross into his own net, Rooney combined his new, temporary role with his trademark tenacity, chasing back and closing down to deny West Brom on several occasions, in the unnerving absence of his side’s established rearguard. While the new United backline of Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Fabio da Silva held firm with relative ease throughout the closing stages, the influence of Rooney was clear to see, with the forward’s energy seeing him protecting his side’s lead, partly constructed by the player himself.
While much of Manchester United’s season build-up has been centred around the introduction of new, younger faces following the retirements of Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Edwin van der Sar, the remaining experience among the squad will offer vital continuity as United look to secure their 20th league triumph. With new additions to the United attack, with Young and the returning loanee Welbeck offering fresh offensive options, last season’s wrangling to tie Rooney to a long-term contract looks to be crucial to the cause, working as a lead striker, Rooney has proven once again to be one of the champions’ most potent goal threats.
In a seemingly revolutionary side, with even current Premier League Golden Boot holder, Dimitar Berbatov relegated to the bench for United’s trip to The Hawthorns, the established name of Rooney on the team-sheet looks to be a key figure for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men going forward. Given his starring role in grinding out three points, Rooney looks set to be as influential as ever before.