Man United in decline – is Rooney saviour or symptom?
David Moyes furious after Spurs defeat, but admits he cannot afford to rest Rooney
SPURS won the battle of the Premier League's two biggest underachievers on New Year's Day, inflicting yet another home defeat on Man United as David Moyes was presented with more evidence of the rebuilding job that is needed at Old Trafford.
Goals from a rejuvenated Emmanuel Adebayor and Christian Eriksen were enough to sink United, who have now lost four times at home this season and have a paltry 14 points from ten matches at the Theatre of Dreams - a return that would have been considered unthinkable under Moyes's predecessor.
There were other echoes of the past in the match, as referee Howard Webb waved away two strong second-half penalty claims. "In the not-so-distant past of United's dominance he may have awarded at least one of them," muses The Guardian.
After the game Moyes slammed one of Webb's decisions as "scandalous", insisting that not only should United have been given a penalty but claiming Spurs keeper Hugo Loris should have been sent off for his 87th-minute charge at Ashley Young. "All I can tell you is that it is a stonewall penalty kick," he said.
The result is "a reality check" for United and "a reminder of the need for strengthening", says Henry Winter in the Daily Telegraph.
"The champions were inhibited by Wayne Rooney tiring under the weight of expectation, similarly by an over-reliance on a teenager in Adnan Januzaj for creativity, and by visitors' belief that Old Trafford has lost its fear factor now Sir Alex Ferguson has left," he adds.
The importance of Rooney to the champions is highlighted by Matt Dickinson in The Times. But he says that the player is being asked to do too much after Moyes admitted he could not afford to rest him.
"Trying to play the Cantona, Scholes and Keane roles — sometimes all at the same time — always was going to stretch United's star player to breaking point, and the England striker seemed dangerously close to snapping after the final whistle when he berated Howard Webb, the referee.
"There is such a thin spread of top quality that Rooney feels the need to do every job," says Dickinson. "At this rate, he will finish the season exhausted."
However, the player's resurgence must go down as Moyes's "greatest personal achievement" since taking over at Old Trafford, says the Daily Mail. "It may come to be remembered as one of the sole highlights of a wretched first campaign in the Premier League." ·