Rooney's moment of magic earns United a belated win
MANCHESTER, England (AP) A moment of magic from Wayne Rooney. Both strikers on the scoresheet. And, most importantly, three points.
After a troubled end to 2015, the new year has got off to a good start for beleaguered Manchester United and manager Louis van Gaal.
Rooney tucked away a brilliant flicked finish mid second half to earn United a 2-1 victory over Swansea in the Premier League on Saturday, ending an eight-match winless run that left Van Gaal in a fragile position at England's biggest club.
Anthony Martial, who put United ahead just after halftime, drifted past his marker on the left wing and crossed low for Rooney to produce a deft finish with his left heel from the edge of the six-yard box. It was the kind of inspirational act that has been in short supply at Old Trafford for weeks.
''It was his left foot behind his right foot,'' Van Gaal said. ''You cannot imagine what goal that is.''
Rooney first goal in nearly two months put him alone in second place in the club's all-time scoring list on 238 - 11 behind Bobby Charlton. He also is outright second all-time in the Premier League on 188, behind Alan Shearer's 260.
Van Gaal said the result will ease the pressure on United's players, who last celebrated victory on Nov. 21, since when the team slipped out of the Champions League, and the Premier League's top four. That left Van Gaal's position unstable, but the Dutchman can relax for now. United stayed in fifth place.
''We are sitting on the bench in a more relaxed way,'' Van Gaal said.
Like everyone inside Old Trafford, Van Gaal will have had his heart in his mouth when Swansea goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, up for a corner, rose to plant a header just wide of the post with the last touch of the game. That would have been a second equalizer for manager-less and relegation-threatened Swansea, which had pegged back United through Gylfi Sigurdsson's looping header, seven minutes before Rooney scored.
''It's not been the luckiest of places, Manchester, in the last few weeks,'' said caretaker Swansea coach Alan Curtis, whose team lost 2-1 at Man City last month after conceding in injury time.
Van Gaal deployed a three-man defense to give the team more attacking options after its recent scoring woes but United looked dangerous only in the second half. The atmosphere was funereal at times, save for chants from the away end about Van Gaal's position.
At the halftime whistle, United had failed to score a first-half goal again. The last one was in September - and that was a penalty. But Van Gaal retained his bold approach, and it came off in the end.
''It's amazing that you can perform the game plan like we have done, in a risky style, under this pressure,'' Van Gaal said. ''That is a positive sign.''
There was still only a smattering of boos for United at halftime, despite the team's below-par showing, and the crowd finally came alive when Martial came in off his left-wing position and met a cross from the impressive Ashley Young with a downward header into the net.
The goal sparked United into life, with the team's passing becoming sharper and Ander Herrera shooting over, but Swansea almost equalized when Andre Ayew headed Sigurdsson's cross against the post.
Swansea was causing problems down United's left, where halftime substitute Matteo Darmian was being overrun, and the goal came from that flank. Substitute Modou Barrow worked some space, cut back and then floated a short cross over for Sigurdsson, who looped a header over goalkeeper David de Gea.
Rooney, though, saved United.
''I hope it is a fantastic starting point for the team,'' Van Gaal said.