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Rooney fires Manchester United to Liverpool derby win

Rooney unleashes an unstoppable screamer. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Rooney unleashes an unstoppable screamer. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Rooney unleashes an unstoppable screamer. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Wayne Rooney scored late to give Manchester United three crucial points – and his manager Louis Van Gaal a vital win – in a scrappy encounter against Liverpool at Anfield.

Manchester United vs Liverpool is always an entertaining affair, but this edition of the most iconic rivalry in English football was a pale shadow of its usual self. Liverpool made the better chances, but found David de Gea staunch in the opposition goal, the Spanish keeper producing fine saves to deny Adam Lallana and Emre Can.

Jurgen Klopp’s side wasted numerous opportunities – shooting high and wide or straight at the keeper – and paid the price 12 minutes from time. Fellaini escaped his marker, rose above four other scrambling Liverpool defenders and headed the ball. Rooney was first to react to the rebound, lashing a right-footed screamer. Simon Mignolet got a hand to the effort, but it was too strong to be saved.

The result puts United fifth on the table, just two points off the Champions League places and seven behind joint leaders Leicester City and Arsenal, and will be enough to silence the critics of Van Gaal, who has been under scrutiny after only two wins in United’s previous 11 games.

Rooney is still key

Wayne Rooney’s status as United and England’s main man is often questioned. But once again he proved he remains, along with the outstanding De Gea, one of Van Gaal’s most crucial players.

The 30-year-old lifelong Evertonian loves winning at Anfield, and he was delighted after scoring his first goal at Liverpool since January 2005. His sweetly times goal was proof that the striker is on his way back into goalscoring form – he scoring twice in the 3-3 draw against Newcastle United, as well as the winners in the FA Cup third-round game against Sheffield United and the Carling Cup match against Swansea City.

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal said: “We know Wayne Rooney has played for Everton and now plays for United so he wants to score against Liverpool, it means a lot for him. A striker who scores is always very important and now he is scoring in a row and we are winning in a row. I’m very happy for him but also for Manchester United. And for the fans. Everyone wants to see Rooney scoring.”

“This is a special feeling,” United captain Rooney said. “It is always great to score at your rivals and, against Liverpool for this football club, it is a massive result. On a personal note it doesn’t get much better. For my goal, I know Simon Mignolet is a very good goalkeeper and there were players trying to cover so I just tried to put my foot through it and take whoever was in the way with it! Thankfully it went in and won us the game. Today the performance wasn’t that important – the result was all that mattered.”

“To beat Liverpool is always important,” Van Gaal said. “It was important because our competitors have lost points. You have to see it always in perspective. It is for the fans, for me and the players a fantastic win and it will give us a boost. There are matches we have played much better than today and in that perspective I can’t say it is a good day because Liverpool dominated in the first half.”

Looking forward, Van Gaal said: “We have made a good start in 2016, to beat Liverpool for the second time in a row is it marvellous, it gives a big boost for the players and the fans so I hope it shall continue with winning. That is why we are here, to win our games and at end of the season to be in the first three positions of the league.

“We are seven points behind now. We have a lot of matches still to go. We started 2016 very good with a lot of wins – this game will give a big boost to the players and the fans and the environment of Manchester United.”

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