In Brief

Playmaker Wayne Rooney goes back to the future for Man Utd

England skipper Rooney will finally be converted into a midfielder thanks to the emergence of Marcus Rashford

Manchester United's up and down season continued as they produced one of their best performances of the season against Crystal Palace in front of a subdued Old Trafford crowd.

Despite the relative indifference of the fans, United's victory puts them within striking distance of a Champions League berth should Arsenal or Man City slip up in the remaining weeks of the season.

The atmosphere may have been "flat" says the BBC, but United were "bright, creative, energetic and hungry" as an own goal from Damien Delaney and a second from Matteo Darmian secured manager Louis van Gaal a "highly satisfactory" win.

Key to the performance was Wayne Rooney, who was deployed in midfield in his second start since returning from a knee injury, and produced an excellent display.

At the start of the season Van Gaal announced that Rooney would be his main striker, but the emergence of Marcus Rashford has changed that and "his days leading the line for his club are numbered", says Paul Hirst of The Times.

"We got a look into the future last night, with Rooney asked to play in a deeper role", he says. It was a good performance as Rooney showed discipline and showcased his ability to pick a pass.

He was part of a slick midfield that played in a "style that has too often been absent this season", says Steve Sutcliffe in the Daily Telegraph.

"While he no longer retains the pace to flourish as a central striker, England's record goal scorer is savvy enough to realise that a role behind the striker at the apex of a midfield four could extend his effectiveness at the top level," he says. "This performance illustrated that to a tee."

Rooney could now be set for a "prolonged role in midfield" says the Daily Mail, after he "masterminded" United's win "from the centre circle".

The England man won praise from Van Gaal after the game. He now looks set to start this weekend's FA Cup semi-final against his former team Everton in the middle of the pitch.

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