By Wayne Veysey at Old Trafford
If Wayne Rooney sustains this kind of form, the headband will have to be prised off his injured scalp.
Most footballers are superstitious types and it will not have been lost on the Manchester United man that he has scored three goals in the two games he has played with the Rab C Nesbitt-style adornment to protect a wound sustained 17 days ago.
|MANCHESTER UNITED'S 200 CLUB
||SIR BOBBY CHARLTON
Rooney scored goals of great composure in either half of the 4-2 triumph, as well as smartly setting up Antonio Valencia for the crowning strike, to become only the fourth player in United’s history to reach the 200-goal landmark for the club.
Had the 27-year-old been more ruthless with an open goal at his mercy from a tight angle after rounding the keeper, Rooney would have been reflecting afterwards on a hat-trick. However, more significant in the general scheme of things was his all-round contribution.
The No.10 was outstanding, leading the charge when United were in possession, hungrily trying to retrieve it when they did not and generally looking fitter, sharper and more menacing than he has for years.
His second goal, when he latched on to a deep cross from David De Gea, advanced upon the Leverkusen keeper Bernd Leno from the left side of the box, gave him the eyes to suggest he would aim for the far post before dispatching it inside the near upright, was of the very highest class.
This performance leaves only Bobby Charlton (249), Denis Law (237) and Jack Rowley (211) above Rooney in the United all-time scoring list.
"I said a month ago he's got a chance to join the real greats here with his goalscoring record," observed David Moyes afterwards.
"I thought his goals tonight were great, he got round the goalkeeper and that could've been the hat-trick, obviously his second at the time, but he deserved the ovation that he got, his performance was terrific."
Bayer Leverkusen were welcoming opponents, possessing a none-too-sturdy defence that was protected by a goalkeeper who appeared to have smeared butter all over his gloves before kick-off.
But that should not detract from a third committed - and mightily impressive - display from Rooney since returning to the United starting XI for the goalless draw against Chelsea at the end of last month.
It provided further vindication of United’s refusal to sell him to their title rivals during the summer, demonstrating what an asset a lean and purposeful Rooney is to the Premier League champions.
Of greater concern was Rooney’s reluctance in a snap post-match TV interview to provide any evidence that his longing for new pastures has abated.
He looked visibly tetchy when asked – twice – if he was happy at United, dodging the question with rather less alacrity than some of the Leverkusen tackles.
Even Moyes admitted that he was not certain that his most high-profile player wanted to actually be at Old Trafford.
"I don't know," said the Scot. "I just know that he's been great in training, he's worked really hard, he's fit, he looks fit and lean and he showed [this] in his performance tonight again."
The band is continuing to aid Rooney for now. Yet his relationship with his club still appears as if it is being held together by a sticking plaster.
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