Wayne Rooney takes director’s role on Derby County debut
Player-coach had a hand in both goals on return to English game following his stint in the US
Derby County’s Wayne Rooney during the Championship match against Barnsley at Pride Park. Photograph: Bradley Collyer/PA Wire
Derby County 2 Barnsley 1
Wayne Rooney’s arrival at Derby might have looked like a gimmick but his debut proved he will be a telling influence in the Championship. Although, he had a hand in both goals against Barnsley his most obvious impact was as a leader on the pitch.
There was no power or pace to his performance, instead he relied on his guile, cunning and passing range. Jack Marriott and Martyn Waghorn scored for Derby, either side of an Elliott Simoes equaliser, with Rooney at the heart of both.
The player-coach was deployed at the tip of a midfield diamond, wearing the captain’s armband previously worn by Ireland defender Richard Keogh who was sacked after a car crash following a team bonding night out. Rooney is at Derby to provide a better example, with the most important arrival in the club’s history replacing record signing Krystian Bielik, who was suspended after being sent off against Charlton.
Noise levels rose whenever the ball went near England’s record goalscorer as he tried to ease himself into the match. Part of Rooney’s remit is to complete his coaching badges and be a key part of Derby’s backroom staff. It could be seen by the way he was marshalling the midfield without ever getting close to the action, looking more like a coach than a player. Not that anyone should be surprised considering he had not played for 74 days.
The opener should have arrived when Waghorn broke down the left and provided a perfect cross for Marriott but from 12 yards the striker lacked composure as he sent the ball well wide.
It was a lesson for Rooney that his team-mates are not of the calibre he is used to in England. He regularly found space to drop into to collect the ball but he was rarely spotted by anyone in white.
A sign of Rooney of the coach came when Marriott shot wide after being sent through one on one. Upon the ball sliding beyond the post, Rooney berated Marriott for his finishing failings, showing he is not just the star of the show but directing it too.
Moments later Rooney proved his worth as he whipped in a dangerous free-kick from a deep position for Marriott to make amends by diverting the ball into the bottom corner for his first goal in 18 appearances. Rooney did not join in the celebrations, instead pumping his fist in the direction of the bench as he took the plaudits from a thankful crowd.
Barnsley created a rare counterattack five minutes after the break, resulting in Simoes toe-poking home a rebound from close range after the original shot was stopped. It was a first professional goal for the striker who arrived a year ago from FC United of Manchester.
Rooney should have scored soon after when he found himself unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box but failed to make a connection with a header, instead watching the cross bounce wide off his right shoulder. In spite of his inability to finish, the fans rallied with more chants aimed towards their captain, who now needed to give himself a few stern words.
There is nothing Rooney loves more than a crossfield pass and he regularly fired one from the left side to right back Andre Wisdom 40 yards away. The intention was achieved when Wisdom controlled the ball, drove towards the box and pulled back a pass for Waghorn to steer into the corner from close to the penalty spot.
Rooney moved further forward after the withdrawal of Waghorn, sitting behind a lone striker as a No 10. It is a role he is more accustomed to and one from where he can provide a greater influence when Derby attack. In open play he was frequently left behind.
The reason for changing his role might have been a touch simpler, as Rooney looked tired and pushing out of the centre would allow him to eased himself towards completing 90 minutes. Philip Cocu realises he needs his captain on the pitch whenever possible.
A second consecutive victory for Derby moved them 10 points clear of the drop zone and looking up. Whereas Barnsley sit second from bottom and face a tough second part to the season on this showing after struggling to create chances. – Guardian