Wayne Rooney lands final blow as Manchester United blitz Tottenham
Man United 3-0 Spurs
Wayne Rooney put off-field problems to one side and delivered an inspirational speech that propelled Manchester United to a bruising knockout victory over Tottenham.
Rooney was subjected to an unwanted set of headlines after apparently being knocked out by Phil Bardsley during a sparring session in the kitchen of his Cheshire mansion.
Video footage published by The Sun - apparently shot on February 22 - shows Bardsley knocking Rooney to the floor in a playful scrap between the two former United team-mates.
The video was the talk of the airwaves and social media outlets yesterday morning, but the England and United captain did not seem perturbed by the episode and scored a fine goal in the 3-0 rout against Tottenham before celebrating with a fine display of shadow-boxing in the corner.
After the match, Rooney's team-mate Marouane Fellaini revealed the captain had delivered a rousing speech to the squad on the eve of the game - and it clearly worked.
"It was a very important speech," the United midfielder conceded.
Manager Louis van Gaal knew his captain had given the speech, but was unable to witness it himself as it was in a players-only meeting.
"I was aware of (the speech)," Van Gaal said.
"The players know this game was of massive importance so I think a captain has to do something to help the players or help the manager or help the club. I was very pleased.
"I was not in the meeting because the captain has his own privileges."
Van Gaal would not be drawn into giving his opinions on the story when asked in his post-match press conference.
"I think it is a ridiculous world where we live that I have to answer questions (like that)," the Dutchman said.
"What is this world, twisted? I don't want to answer questions about such things."
Rooney enjoyed his goal celebration after taking advantage of a misplaced pass by Nabil Bentaleb and bundling his way past two Spurs players before scoring the third and final goal of a hugely successful afternoon for United.
Fellaini, for his opening goal, drove a low ball past Hugo Lloris and Michael Carrick nodded in a second.
Van Gaal thinks United are finally starting to tick after months of tinkering with selection and tactics. He's now set his sights on Manchester City.
"We have to go step by step. It is a rat race and we are now two points from second position," admitted Van Gaal, who faces Liverpool, Aston Villa, City and Chelsea in the coming weeks.
"We have waited a long time for such a victory. The performance was very good against a very good team so I am very pleased.
"We played like a team and that is nice to see after a defeat to Arsenal (last Monday).
"It's a massively important game after a defeat against a competitor so I am very pleased with the players.
"We have to go step by step and the next game is Liverpool. Manchester United have not won too often in the games in Liverpool."
While second is in reach, Van Gaal has ruled out catching leaders Chelsea.
"It is too far away," he said, mindful of the fact that United are eight points behind Chelsea having played one more game.