LONDON (AP) - With David Beckham watching in the stands, Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney replicated one of the retired star’s most memorable strikes in a 2-0 victory at West Ham on Saturday.
“It’s just instinct, I’ve turned and had a quick look and seen the goalkeeper off his line,” Rooney said. “It’s one of those I’ve tried many times and thankfully today it’s gone in.”
Just as it did on the opening day of the 1996-97 season for Beckham, who lobbed Wimbledon goalkeeper Neil Sullivan from the halfway line and celebrated Rooney’s strike inside Upton Park almost 18 years on.
Manager David Moyes watched in astonishment from the touchline.
“Wayne’s technical ability, his awareness to know where the goalkeeper was, was amazing in the build-up, and then to actually execute it was superb,” Moyes said. “My only worry was whether the bounce would take it over the bar or not.”
Moyes was actually more pleased with the second after the wonder goal. With England manager Roy Hodgson a spectator, Rooney was primed in front of goal to slot in from close range in the 33rd after Mark Noble failed to fully clear Ashley Young’s low cross.
Rooney’s first double in almost four months moved him to third on United’s all-time scoring chart, 37 behind Bobby Charlton’s record 249.
The striker, who signed a new deal through June 2019 last month, thrived at Upton Park in the absence of Robin van Persie, who is beginning at least a month out with a left knee injury.
Moyes almost had to cope with a makeshift defense as United reeled off a third consecutive away win in the league without conceding, days after advancing to a Champions League quarterfinal with Bayern Munich by beating Olympiakos.
However rare this comfortable league win was for Moyes‘ seventh-place side, reaching the top four seems beyond this team, with Arsenal 11 points in front in fourth place.
But coming less than a week after what Rooney described as “one of my worst days” - a 3-0 home loss to Liverpool - confidence is high in the United camp heading into Tuesday’s derby against Manchester City.
“The win on Wednesday night against Olympiakos has given us all a big lift,” Rooney said. “You could see today the confidence running through the team, so it’s a good victory and we’re really pleased with that.”