LONDON, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Wayne Rooney endured another frustratingly disappointing afternoon in Manchester United’s 0-0 Premier League draw at Crystal Palace on Saturday.
The England striker, starting in his favoured central role, huffed and puffed to little effect with just one effort on target before finishing the match wide on the left having done little to silence his mounting critics.
The 30-year-old Rooney, England’s leading international scorer, looks a shadow of the player who has plundered 187 Premier League goals in his career.
He has scored only two league goals this season and his first involvement at Palace was a heated argument with referee Mike Jones after he penalised a United player.
Rooney curled an inviting 20-metre free kick from a central position too close to goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey and lifted another free kick harmlessly over his team mates and into touch.
Released by a fine pass from fellow striker Anthony Martial, the former Everton forward failed to control the ball and wasted an opportunity before being caught offside in another promising position.
Rooney, however, continued to work tirelessly for United’s cause, tracking back and doing his fair share of defensive work.
With 20 minutes remaining, manager Louis van Gaal shunted him out to the left and moved Martial into the middle, the 19-year-old Frenchman’s better pace and mobility offering more of an attacking threat.
Rooney cut inside to send a 25-metre drive sailing over the bar to the delight of the home fans and his final contribution was to head away a deep free kick from Palace in stoppage time as United hung on for their third goalless draw in a week.
As he trudged off the pitch, Rooney raised his hands to applaud the away supporters who will have drifted away from Selhurst Park wondering if their captain’s loss of form is terminal.
Thirteen years as a professional footballer look to have taken their toll on his body and Van Gaal seems to have a difficult task to find a way to revitalise his once inspirational captain.
The draw left United fourth in the table, four points behind leaders Manchester City, and Palace in eighth position. (Editing by Tony Jimenez)