Wayne Rooney eager to follow in footsteps of legend Paul Scholes at Manchester United
Manchester Utd 2 - Everton 1
Wayne Rooney will use Paul Scholes as his role model as a permanent move into a deeper role now looks a certainty for the Manchester United captain.
The 30-year-old has been deployed in midfield in the past, but has always insisted he prefers to play as the out-and-out striker he was when he first burst onto the scene as a teenager. But he returned to that deep-lying role in United's last-gasp 2-1 FA Cup semi-final success against his boyhood club Everton on Saturday.
United took the lead through Marouane Fellaini before David de Gea saved a Romelu Lukaku penalty. Everton thought they had taken the game to extra-time when Chris Smalling put through his own net, but Anthony Martial popped up with an injury-time winner.
Rooney was one of the best players on display at Wembley, picking out passes and starting attacks, while also undertaking the defensive side, including clearing a Lukaku effort off the line early on.
United, who are still uncertain of a top-four finish and with manager Louis van Gaal's future the subject of speculation, now face a May 21 final date with Crystal Palace.
Rooney is likely to remain in his new role given the form of United's young attacking talents Martial, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard.
And the England skipper is now ready to use the experience of playing alongside the legendary Scholes for so many years as a way of improving.
"I've known for a few years, I have played there a few times throughout my career and I can play that position," Rooney replied when asked if he was at home in midfield. "I have played and watched Paul Scholes play that role for years and I always knew that one day that is where I would play, so I have tried to learn and watch what he did.
"It is still early days, but hopefully if I keep playing there I can develop and get better.
"We have got a lot of pace in the team now and I think I can read the game quite well - whether to go forward or stay deeper and leave the space for the other lads.
"It is down to the manager, it is his decision and for the team more importantly it is the right thing to do at this moment."
Rooney will continue to be a mentor to those precocious young talents who are looking to lead a new era at Old Trafford.
Martial and Rashford are still teenagers and Rooney, who moved to United from Everton as a 19-year-old, is ready to offer his guidance - much like current assistant manager Ryan Giggs did for him in 2004.
"Of course I try and help them," he said. "When I joined the club at 18 Giggsy was about 30 and I saw the help and advice he gave me at that age, so if I can help those young players I'm happy to do that.
"I've been doing that, but they can help me as well. You're always learning."
MAN UNITED: De Gea, Fosu-Mensah (Valencia 62), Smalling, Blind, Rojo, Carrick, Lingard, Fellaini (Herrera 87), Rooney, Martial, Rashford.
Subs not used: Depay, Mata, Romero, Schneiderlin, Darmian.
EVERTON: Robles, Besic, Stones, Jagielka, Baines, McCarthy, Gibson (Mirallas 90), Lennon (Deulofeu 70), Barkley, Cleverley, Lukaku.
Subs not used: Hibbert, Oviedo, Osman, Howard, Pennington.