On the 12th of February 2011 there was a moment in time where the world stood still and Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney created an ‘I was there moment’. Mark Young recalls the moment…
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The now record-breaking England striker went into that weekend’s Manchester derby against rivals City on the back of poor form and with his future at the club surrounded in controversy.
Coming off the back of another disappointing international tournament and a fall-out with Sir Alex Ferguson regarding a transfer, it didn’t look like it was going to be an easy season for the Merseysider.
It was a derby where the noise at Old Trafford became louder and the decibels of success could be heard as close as ever.
City had been edging towards joining their rivals at the top of the Premier League as they invested in the right areas, and Roberto Mancini’s team were a scary prospect for many. Mario Balotelli, Carlos Tevez, David Silva, Yaya Toure, Edin Dzeko, Aleksandar Kolarov and Vincent Kompany were all part of a City squad set for a real challenge at the top of the league, and in European competition too.
United and Sir Alex Ferguson knew this, so this particular derby was a chance to put a marker down and see what colour Manchester and the league would be.
In a tight encounter, it was the 2010/11 version of Nani – a winger who at the time was starting to fill the departed Cristiano Ronaldo’s boots with great satisfaction – who opened the scoring midway through the first half.
Spanish magician David Silva was to equalise as he started to cement himself as a key player in the City attack, but it was going to take something special to make this derby particularly memorable.
As the build-up of an attack began, Wayne Rooney had a heavy touch in the centre of the attacking half… but he kept going in typical Rooney fashion. The ball would eventually end up at the feet of the fantastic Nani on the right hand side, who delivered a cross towards the United number 10.
The cross seemingly missed almost everyone, but in the blink of an eye Rooney managed to get some enormous hang time as he jumped into the air to produce an extravagant – and City-crushing – overhead kick.
Wayne Rooney had re-announced himself and just like that the tide had turned.
The Premier League trophies kept on coming, but it has been a tough few seasons since then for Rooney.
The concerns over Rooney’s potentially dwindling effectiveness have reached fever pitch over the last few weeks, but it would be just like the striker to reproduce his best in the fixture where he made his most memorable of contributions.
The Manchester Derby has been fantastic in recent times with both teams going hell for leather for bragging rights in the city: from Michael Owen’s last gasp winner and Robin van Persie’s moment of brilliant at the Etihad Stadium, to City’s 6-1 demolishing at Old Trafford.
But they all fall under the shadow of Rooney’s moment of inspiration in Manchester derby folklore. And with the neighbours coming around for a Sunday feast this weekend, it is that huge moment in Old Trafford history that people will remember, both in the recent history of this fixture and when looking back on the career of the England and United captain.
Because on the 12th of February 2011 Rooney was the star in an iconic moment for both him and his club.
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