Wayne Rooney has been criticised heavily this season, and to a certain extent, rightly so. There is no doubting his effort, as he gives his all for every game he plays, but his end product has been lacking. He has been giving the ball away too easily, his shots are often wildly off target, and he has been looking unhappy. It has been clear things weren’t ready to go his way over recent weeks, with him seeing his efforts come back off the woodwork on a couple of occasions.

Then comes the Arsenal game. Rooney has enjoyed scoring against Arsenal, the first of these goals coming when he was just sixteen, still playing for Everton. Arsenal had gone unbeaten for thirty matches, had gone in 1-1 at half time, the game creeps in to the last minute, and Wayne Rooney gets the ball…

Two years later, almost to the exact day, Arsenal were now forty nine games unbeaten. Rooney is now a Manchester United player. After winning a controversial penalty less than twenty minutes from time, Rooney has more to offer the game…

The following season, Rooney was again instrumental in a victory against Arsenal, giving Lehmann no chance.

So despite his lack of form, it was no massive surprise when Rooney gave United the lead when he faced Arsenal again last weekend.

So United didn’t get anything from a game they deserved something, and amid the massive disappointment of not widening the gap to nine points, there was the positive we’d seen in Rooney. His first goal in thirteen games, and a well taken goal at that.

Next came Portsmouth in the Cup, and the lad who hates to be rested and hates to be taken off the field sat on the bench, watching Larsson and Solskjaer lead our attack. He will have seen Vidic score a great header, only for it to be wrongly ruled out, he will have seen Larsson score an even better goal, only for it to be wrongly ruled out… and it seemed he was determined to score and make it count, when he confidently strode on to the field with half an hour to play.

With less than twenty minutes on the field, Carrick played through a great ball to Larsson, who played in Giggs, who provided the perfect ball for Rooney to tap away. Finally, after dominating the game, and scoring two goals previously, United took the lead. Rooney wasn’t finished yet though.

In the recent months where Rooney has struggled in front of goal, those who are fortunate enough to get to games live, will have seen Rooney keep attempting to chip the keeper. There have been instances when the obvious option seemed to be for him to put his foot through the ball and force at least a save, however Rooney has instead tried to chip the ball, and before yesterday, it always landed perfectly in the keepers grasp. But as Rooney looked up yesterday, he had a look of confidence we haven’t seen for a while. Sol Campbell and David James, who both get a spot on the list of players disliked by the United faithful, could only stand and watch as the ball raised up over their heads, and fall perfectly in to the net, clipping the underside of the crossbar before going in. A goal reminiscent of the great Cantona chip against Sunderland back in 96.

Still, it’s important to note that whilst Rooney hasn’t been playing the greatest football so far this season, he is by no means having a bad season, rather, a bad season by his standards. He is one of the highest scorers and providers of goals in the league, with only a handful of players proving to be more effective than him in front of goal, and this seems to be forgotten by the press and rival fans who have taken to slating him.

Regardless, United have forced their way to the top of the league despite Rooney’s lack of form. That doesn’t mean we can go the full stretch without him though. Whilst we are chuffed with his three goals in his last two hours of playing, he needs to keep this up over the coming weeks. We have five games to play in the next four weeks, three of these are away. Spurs are the only top half of the table team out of these fixtures, but we need to be sharp for each match, and take maximum points from all of them. With fourteen games to play, we need to be taking all points off the worse off clubs, and to do that, you’d like to have Rooney playing at his best.

I’m sure the papers will be filled with lots of clichés today, of how form is temporary and class is permanent. There is no doubt that Rooney is class, and we can all hope that he’s the man who has what it takes to push us up a gear, and cruise to our ninth title in fifteen years.