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The new captain fantastic?

West-Ham-v-Manchester-United-Wayne-Rooney-sec_3105815Eight months ago Wayne Rooney looked set to leave Old Trafford behind and join Chelsea. On Saturday he captained the team – not for the first time this season – scored one the best goals the club has ever seen and moved up to third in United’s all-time goalscoring list.

In what has been a dismal inaugural campaign, David Moyes’ handling of Rooney has been one of the few positives of United’s season and Saturday confirmed how pivotal the striker is to United’s future, particularly when he enjoys this sort of form, something that had somewhat gone missing over the last 18 months.

Moyes admitted that Rooney has shown desire to take responsibility and to captain the team and he believes handing the armband to the United number 10 was the right choice.

“Wayne has led by example all season. Maybe wearing the armband, taking a wee bit of pride in that, to show exactly what it means. He wants to take responsibility and I think you always want players who take ­responsibility,” Moyes said.

“It’s the sort of magic why you talk about top players so much, that’s why you talk about Robin van Persie scoring a magnificent hat-trick in midweek.

“Wayne scores two goals at West Ham and that’s why players of this ilk you write about and talk about more than many others.”

Rooney’s goal and performance, however, weren’t the only positives to emerge from Saturday’s win at West Ham, as United’s makeshift defence kept a clean sheet that had looked rather improbable when the line-ups were announced. Michael Carrick was excellent as deputy centre-back, while Marouane Fellaini looked increasingly at home in a Manchester United shirt and helped Carrick to neutralise the aerial threat posed by Andy Carroll.

Moyes recognised the contribution of the Belgian midfielder, as well as praising Juan Mata, who thrived in the number 10 role. “I thought the two of them were excellent. We know Juan can play two or three different positions and that was always going to be the case. His performance in behind Wayne was excellent.

“Marouane had to do two or three jobs. Helped us out defensively. We played really well. It was on the back of a good result in midweek and I just hope I can keep that going.”