The striker got his first goal in the Champions League group stage this season with a header, following some brilliant work by Jesse Lingard to volley a cross onto his captain’s head. It was a huge moment for Man United, having failed to score in their last three games and the goal came after van Gaal had moved Rooney into a striking role.
Anthony Martial was replaced by Marouane Fellaini to a chorus of boos around Old Trafford and the move meant Rooney took the Frenchman’s place leading the line. Having started just behind Martial, Rooney took advantage of his move further up the field to to score a goal that he will hope will help spark him back to top form.
“I thank all of my players, not only Wayne Rooney,” van Gaal said after the game.
“Wayne Rooney is always the centre of attention and I always have to answer questions about Wayne Rooney. Wayne is Wayne and he shall always contribute in the game. I am very happy because I put him in the striker position again and he scored.”
The fans’ reaction to Martial’s substitution would have definitely irked van Gaal as it was the first time they have really acted out against their manager. The Dutchman will be happy that it was his move that helped break the deadlock and he will argue that his move was justified.
It may, however, give the manager reason to play Rooney as United’s main man again. The 30-year-old has been poor in recent weeks and it could get slightly frustrating for the supporters if Van Gaal decides that Rooney’s goal warrants an even longer run in the side. There is no doubting that the former Everton man has been poor this season but his goal might paper over any cracks and see him get an extended run in the side, regardless of his performances.