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."

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Sport
tennisLive: Follow all the updates from Melbourne as Murray faces Czech Tomas Berdych in the semi-final
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Sport
football
News
i100
Life and Style
Virtual reality headset: 'Essentially a cinema screen that you strap to your face'
techHow virtual reality is thrusting viewers into frontline of global events and putting film-goers at the heart of the action
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
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

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness