Wayne Rooney seizes centre stage for his act of revenge on Manchester City

Pain of losing the title inspires striker to break United legend Sir Bobby Charlton's Manchester derby scoring record

The Etihad Satdium

On an afternoon which posed so many question about Roberto Mancini's team selection and purchases, the wisdom of selling Nigel de Jong to Milan for £3m seems almost besides the point, thought the Dutchman would certainly have been the man to check Wayne Rooney's searing run through the heart of midfield, which left Gareth Barry frantically waving but drowning, 15 minutes in .

Rooney (right) capitalised with the kind of passion which he always reserves for these derby occasions. He really is a true Mancunian, now, in the intensity of what he feels about Manchester City. "Believe me I'd have gone anywhere but there," he said a few years ago when his contract went unrenewed, his future was in doubt and Abu Dhabi wages seemed an obvious attraction. That goal against City two seasons ago is the one he considers his best of all time and the third minute challenge on Yaya Touré yesterday was a screaming declaration of how losing the title to the neighbours actually felt last May. The boot he thrust wildly missed but he wound up kneeing him, just for good measure.

By the time the game was only half done, Rooney had two goals to his name – and those strikes are statistically significant. He becomes the youngest player to reach 150 Premier League goals, which, with Les Ferdinand, makes him the competition's joint-fifth highest scorer. He also eased past Sir Bobby Charlton's United record of 10 derby goals.

"He'll let us know about it, that's for sure," Ferguson said of Rooney's latest accomplishments last night, and though it was one of those gentle, affectionate paternal put-downs of his, you were struck immediately by how rarely the Manchester United manager takes the opportunity to lavish the same kind of praise on Rooney that he freely dispenses to his new striker. "He's unbelievable – his intelligence, his maturity," Ferguson said of Van Persie on Friday. When would he ever use those words for Rooney?

He has his reasons. Rooney's slim pickings in front of goal this season have reopened the debate on whether he has reached the zenith of his powers. Compare how Falcao (27 next February) destroyed Chelsea for Atletico Madrid earlier this season with Rooney (27 in October), whose gashed thigh was considered a "blessing" by a club manager who didn't initially consider him fit to play in August. Ferguson has maintained the conversation about the player's unfulfilled potential by publicly musing on the 27-year-old's metabolism. His "frame", as he euphemistically describes it.

Once again, Van Persie takes the headlines today, with a goal which seemed to be written in stars, given the consistency with which he delivers, and which will ask Mancini some searing questions about the comparative merits of Mario Balotelli – if and when he plays the tape back.

But Van Persie's role was relatively peripheral. Rooney was the one who offered more individually than any other player on the pitch. There was the high technical component of his first goal – running across the face of the area and pivoting to screw back a ball which left Joe Hart statuesque. But more signficant was the reminder that Rooney's best place is in that advanced midfield role, "breaking the lines" and linking play. Roy Hodgson has found this to be his best place for England and it looks much the same for United. Van Persie has been his salvation in this respect, shouldering the burden of responsibility and allowing him to play off the front.

There was remarkable tracking back to be done, too. Box-to-box tends to be the term for players ascending up the field, but around the half-hour mark yesterday, Rooney returned down its full length to defend. It was a vital part of the workload for a United side set up to allow City to come on to them and then break out when the moment came. "You know with Wayne, he needs games. That is why I played him on Wednesday," Ferguson said, explaining the decision to deploy him against Cluj in midweek. Yesterday attested to the wisdom of that judgement, though Wednesday night's support role was less inviting. Rooney rarely looks the player out wide that he does supporting from the centre.

It is time on the ball, in possesion, that Rooney craves, as much now as ever, and there was a boyish enthusiasm about the way he reflected on victory. "Especially with what happened last season, we've waited a long time for this to happen and I'm sure it means everything to everyone at the club and all the fans," he said. "We're delighted that we can celebrate. It's a great day for us to win here, they've had a great home record and to spoil that is a great feeling."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
filmReview: In the face of all-round devastation, even Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson appears a little puny
Arts and Entertainment
Bright lights, big city: Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles by dusk
books
News
i100
Sport
Harry Kane makes Paul Scholes' Premier League team of the season
footballPaul Scholes on the best players, managers and goals of the season - and the biggest disappointments
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club that later became synonymous with Hillsborough has dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor