Wayne Rooney is never far away from a controversial headline. The striker’s needless kick-out on Jordon Mutch within eight minutes followed by a goal not long after provided a fitting snapshot of the contrast that has defined much of Rooney’s career. Cardiff fans will no doubt point to referee Neil Swarbrick’s decision not to give Rooney such a prompt red that the traditional early bath wouldn’t have necessarily been required – and they’d more than vindicated in doing so. But the interesting thing with the 28-year-old is how his aggression and robust on-the-edge approach to the game is arguably his biggest asset. It may bubble over to the occasional reckless swipe or frustrated stamp, but without that ruthlessly competitive side to his game, he probably isn’t the player who is on the heels of goal-scoring records for both Manchester United and England. He was everywhere today. United’s best forward as well as their most effective midfielder.
Cardiff should take great confidence from the result and performance. Arguably the better side in the centre of the park, and the threat from wide and central areas against an under-strength Red Devils back-four caused problems throughout. 12 games in, Cardiff can be very happy with their debut Premier League season to date, especially having taken four points at home to the Manchester clubs thanks to Kim Bo-Kyung’s late equaliser. After years being creative in ways to fall at the final hurdle in the Championship, the club are proving that they have, perhaps unwittingly, timed promotion perfectly. A settled and experienced squad, their best manager in a number of years, and the added television money for the start of the 2013/14 season has meant that Cardiff’s ambitions should stretch far beyond many of those who have found themselves alongside England’s (and Wales’) elite far too soon; Crystal Palace, Derby, Watford to name but three. Such a foundation coupled with accomplished performances will give Malky Mackay’s side and the fans huge hope the rest of this season and beyond. For their sake, fingers crossed Vincent Tan is thinking something similar.
Ten games unbeaten in league and cup now for David Moyes, but an over-reliance on Rooney and an abject midfield display are real causes of concern. As the winter draws in and the season ticks towards the packed festive period, the United manager needs to start planning recruits for January if he is to keep pace with the sides above him. Injuries haven’t been kind and the loses of Michael Carrick, Nemanja Vidic and Robin van Persie have been felt more than most but the way Cardiff won the midfield battle and troubled United up front with clever movement warrants being addressed sooner rather than later. Tom Cleverley and Marouane Fellaini struggled to forge a partnership and the side only looked menacing in that area when Rooney dropped deep. Support in central midfield must be top of Moyes’ Christmas wish-list. A second priority is a centre-half. As comfortable as Evans was in the air against Cardiff, Frazier Campbell posed a far more problematic entity when running in behind him and Ferdinand – and the former United man was rewarded with a goal. Top four is the aim and Moyes could well need a couple a first-class reinforcements dropped down his chimney in order to achieve this.
MORE: Man United latest news
MORE: Arsenal latest news
MORE: Chelsea latest news
MORE: Liverpool latest news