Date:10th January 2012 at 8:47pm
Written by:

They say the night is darkest just before the dawn.

Harvey Dent, in the film The Dark Knight, says as much. And for Manchester United this past week, nothing could have been more true. Art imitating sport, or sport imitating art. A turbulent week commenced with the rumours of a new rift between the manager and Wayne Rooney resulting in the Englishman’s removal from the team against Blackburn Rovers, and on, and on.

As most of you well know, United fell to Rovers 3-2 at home. The starting eleven was less than encouraging, featuring a central midfielder in central defense and a winger and a fullback in the centre of the United midfield. And while Blackburn were bottom feeders, they are still a Premier League team and proved as much on the day. Rooney’s absence clearly had an affect on the match as United were uncharacteristically sloppy in attack and failed to make their early possession count. Complacency was the word of the day as it looked like the team assembled believed they could walk out of the tunnel at Old Trafford and in doing so win the three points. Credit to Blackburn for punching above their weight, but it has to be said that United could not have looked more uninterested.

Perhaps when many thought the night was as dark as it could have gotten, it grew blacker. United’s trip to the northeast was as far from pleasant as being an extra on Geordie Shore. Once again United were too complacent and Newcastle looked more like the team that is challenging for the league championship. United’s issues at the back were brought into the broadest of daylights especially following the Phil Jones own goal in which goalkeeper on the day Anders Lindegaard failed to direct Jones to clear or to call for the ball himself. For every person that was calling for Lindegaard to be our permanent keeper after de Gea’s stutters this term, the end of the Newcastle match as well as the derby at the weekend have put paid to such claims.

And so we found ourselves on the eve of another intoxicating Manchester derby. But unlike in derbies gone by, many reds found themselves as hopeless as Emile Heskey in front of goal. Where had the faith gone? The optimism fostered from a few good wins versus Queens Park Rangers, Fulham and Wigan Athletic disappeared faster than Andy Carroll’s strike rate upon joining Liverpool. I was one of the few reds who still believed in his team, who thought there was a path to victory against the noisy neighbours.

Amid more rumours about Rooney’s future with the club (doubtlessly unfounded and dismissed by the player, club and most importantly, agent) many doubted that United could win the day. Up stepped United’s dark knight, Wayne Rooney, to carry his team to victory once again against its most bitter rivals. Whether it was his immaculate header to open the scoring or his composed header to beat the City keeper after having his penalty saved, Rooney proved himself to be the hero for a club whose supporters may be as uncomfortable about having him as such as the citizens of Gotham to have Batman as theirs.

The match itself was a roller coaster full of twists and turns at the end of which United were fortunate to come out ahead. Whether it was Rooney’s header, the Kompany sending off, Scholes’ return to the squad and eventual substitute appearance, Lindegaard fumbling a shot into the path of Aguero or the uncalled potential handball on Jones at the end, the latest edition of the Manchester derby will live long in the collective memory of each fan base.

At the end of The Dark Knight Batman says “I’m whatever Gotham needs me to be” much in the same way Rooney is what United needs him to be. Whether it is a winger, central midfielder, supporting striker or central forward, Rooney has been everything to his manager during his time with United. And while United supporters may be uncomfortable still with the squad’s reliance upon the player who only last season doubted that the club matched his ambitions, we must come to terms with the fact that he is the hero we so desperately need in order to win a record-setting 20th league crown. He is the hero we need and the hero we deserve. Wayne Rooney is our dark knight. While we ought not waste our time on hero-worshipping him, we ought to better appreciate what he does for the thing we hold most dear, our beloved Manchester United.

Written By Charles of The Busby Boys