Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney put his off-field problems aside to knock out Tottenham and put Manchester City within Louis van Gaal’s sights.
The day after a video was released by The Sun of Rooney apparently being knocked out by former team-mate Phil Bardsley, the 29-year-old responded in the perfect way on the pitch.
Rooney scored the third goal in a rampant 3-0 win for the Red Devils at Old Trafford.
The England skipper was delighted to secure a vital win for United, but disappointed the story was leaked on the eve of the game.
”That’s the world we live in today. It’s in my own home, it’s not public, it’s what friends do – they mess around in the house,” he told Sky Sports.
”It was a couple of mates in a private house, and somehow it’s managed to get on the front page of a national newspaper.”
Rooney insisted the publication of the story did not distract him in the build-up to the game.
He said: ”I’ve just been focused on the game. It’s more interesting for other people rather than for me. You’ve seen today, I’ve done a professional job and helped my team win 3-0.”
Rooney’s focus on the match, which came six days after an FA Cup defeat to Arsenal, seemed unshakeable.
The former Everton striker delivered a rousing speech about the importance of winning the match the night before kick-off, Marouane Fellaini revealed.
’It was a very important speech,” the United midfielder told the BBC.
For eight months Van Gaal has been promising United fans everything would soon start to click into place, and it finally did on Sunday.
Fellaini, Michael Carrick and Rooney found the net in a clinical first-half display that had all the hallmarks of the Sir Alex Ferguson era.
United played with speed, width, aggression and destruction to record a win that put them within two points of second-placed City, who lead Arsenal by one point.
After losing at Burnley on Saturday, City have fallen further behind Barclays Premier League leaders Chelsea, and Manuel Pellegrini’s men are now within reach for Van Gaal’s men.
When asked whether City had been dragged into the “rat race” – a term Van Gaal uses to describe the fight for the top four – the United boss said: “Of course, because Arsenal is one point behind and we are two points behind.
“It is good for us and the fans and the media because you can write a lot of things down.
“We have to go step by step. It is a rat race and we are now two points from the second position.”
When asked about the video showing Rooney boxing, van Gaal was full of disdain.
He said: "I think, in what a world we live, I cannot imagine that we are talking about such a thing, that a newspaper is paying a lot for a video, and that I have to answer questions about that.
"I think, 'what is this world twisted?'... I think it is ridiculous that we have to talk about such things."
Spurs came into the match on the back of successive victories, but they were unable to muster any kind of challenge on Sunday.
When asked whether it was their worst performance of the season, head coach Mauricio Pochettino said: “Maybe, yes.
“We made a lot of mistakes. We never found the way we need to play to damage Manchester United.
“I think we made a lot of mistakes. This was the key.”