Wayne Rooney dazzles for Manchester United, is this the end of the saga?

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MANCHESTER — In the far right corner of the Old Trafford pitch in the 75th minute of the game, Wayne Rooney tracked back Chelsea’s Ramires like a man possessed.

As the Brazilian midfielder got to the byline Rooney appeared from nowhere, hunting his pray down before pouncing to make an inch-perfect sliding tackle to win the ball back.

Most of the 75,032 fans in the stadium rose to their feet as one, giving off the biggest roar of the night and chanted “Rooney, Rooney” as the 27-year-old Englishman surged forward and played the ball upfield.

The prodigal son had returned.

Rooney started his first game for the Red Devils, a largely uneventful 0-0 draw with Chelsea, since the end of the 2012-13 campaign and was easily the best player on the pitch.

Both managers agreed.

“I was very pleased with his performance,” Manchester United manager David Moyes said. “And I was very pleased with the reaction he got from the crowd. I expected it. He worked back, he tackled, he chased when we needed it.”

(MORE: Jury still out on David Moyes at Manchester United)

While Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho shared the love, as he shrugged off the chase for Rooney’s signature before the transfer window slams shut next Monday.

“I think the most important thing is that he [Rooney] played very well,” Mourinho said. “He was a real professional. He played for the club that pays him, tried to win, tried to score. He was fantastic.”

So, with both managers singing Rooney’s praises and both sets of supporters chanting his name during the game — Chelsea’s fans jokingly sang “Oh Wayne Rooney, we’ll see you next week” — Rooney is a man in demand.

Following a performance like that you can see why. On the biggest stage of all against a resolute Chelsea defense, with all the rumors swirling around, that took true guts and true class. There were some rusty moments, as there’s bound to be following his injury-hit summer. In the 16th minute Rooney was set free down the right but his cross hit the first man. He looked to the heavens briefly, then shrugged it off.

The Rooney of old was back. In the 77th minute the Liverpudlian came closer than anyone to breaking the deadlock, as he took one touch before rifling a 25 yards shot towards the Chelsea goal. Only a sprawling right handed save from Petr Cech denied Rooney yet another storybook finish to another complex plot he’s constructed.

(MORE: Jose Mourinho praises Chelsea’s “kids” after defensive masterclass)

Yes, many would argue the situation Rooney has created for himself shouldn’t win him many fans. Demanding a move from one of the world’s biggest clubs rubs most people the wrong way. But he plays well when it counts. First and foremost, no matter what his state of mind is and where he wants to play, Rooney sparkles on the pitch in front of over 75,000 adoring fans and with billions watching around the world on television. The England international put in a perfect professional display, just to remind Chelsea what they’re missing if they can’t grab him.

But come next week, who will he be strutting his stuff for in the 2013-14 Premier League season? Mourinho wants the tale to be over. “We are going to close another player. If he’s not coming we are going to close another player.” The 50-year-old Portuguese manager is sick of waiting for Rooney, with Samuel Eto’o on standbye, Rooney has “24-48 hours” in José’s owns words.

And Mourinho had the final say on Rooney.

“The person that starts the story has to finish the story.” The balls in your court, Wayne.

Is this transfer saga finally over?

Jonas nets 2 late goals to keep Benfica in title hunt

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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Jonas scored two late goals to lead Benfica’s 3-1 comeback win at Pacos Ferreira on Saturday, keeping it close to Portuguese league leader FC Porto.

Jonas equalized in the 72nd minute and gave the defending champion the lead in the 88th.

[ MORE: Man United-Chelsea meet in giant Sunday PL clash ]

Rafa Silva added a third goal after the host was reduced to 10 men in stoppage time when Gian dos Santos was shown a direct red card.

Luiz Phellype gave Pacos Ferreira the lead in the ninth.

The double increased Jonas’ league-leading tally to 27 goals.

Benfica moved to within two points of Porto before the pacesetter visits Portimonense on Sunday.

Sporting Lisbon is third at five points behind Porto. It hosts Moreirense on Monday.

Orlando City trades defender Jose Aja to Whitecaps for allocation money

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The Vancouver Whitecaps have struck a deal with an Eastern Conference side to help solidify their back line.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Johannsson leads Werder Bremen to win ]

On Saturday, the Cascadia club finalized a deal to acquire Orlando City defender Jose Aja in exchange for $125,000 in Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) for 2019.

Additionally, Orlando could receive another $100,000 in TAM if Aja remains on the Whitecaps roster next season and a 2021 second-round MLS SuperDraft pick if Aja is in Canada for the 2020 campaign.

Aja has made 25 appearances for Orlando since coming to MLS in 2016 from his native Uruguay.

The timing of the deal is intriguing, given Tim Parker’s willingness to exit the Whitecaps ahead of the 2018 MLS season.

PST reported on Thursday that Parker is seeking a move back to the East Coast, and the New York-native is being tracked by several Eastern Conference sides, including the New York Red Bulls, D.C. United and the Montreal Impact.

Parker is considered one of the top American defenders in MLS, and is actively seeking a massive pay raise ahead of the new season, after making just under $100,000 in 2017.

PL Sunday preview: Red Devils battle Chelsea at Old Trafford

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It will surely be one of the biggest fixtures of the season when Manchester United and Chelsea get together on Sunday, and for both clubs a victory could be vital in projecting their form for the rest of the 2017/18 campaign.

Meanwhile, a crucial meeting at Selhurst Park pits teams on opposite ends of the table against one another. Crystal Palace enters the weekend levels on points with 18th-place Swansea, while Tottenham could leap Chelsea for fourth if results go in favor of Spurs.

[ MORE: Liverpool continues to score at lightning pace against West Ham ]

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN

The injury bug has hit Palace hard as of late, with a total of 12 senior team players being left out of Roy Hodgson‘s squad. The list includes Wilfried Zaha, Yohan Cabaye and Mamadou Sakho, which won’t make things easy against a talented Spurs side.

Tottenham have had a ton of success in this fixture recently, winning the last five encounters and only allowing one goal in the process.

Mauricio Pochettino‘s men have hit the ground running in the second half of the season thus far, picking up a league-high 15 points in the Premier League since the start of 2018.

If there is a saving grace for the Eagles though, it is that Palace has been solid at home this season, and gone unbeaten in nine of its last 10 fixtures at Selhurst.

Manchester United vs. Chelsea — 9:05 a.m. ET on NBCSN

After a pair of draws from the PL sides kicked off their Champions League Round of 16 campaigns midweek, United and Chelsea can now focus their attention back to England; at least for the time being.

Jose Mourinho’s team came away from Seville with a crucial scoreless draw after the hosts tested goalkeeper David De Gea on numerous occasions, while Chelsea were close to pulling out a victory against Barcelona had it not been for a big-time mistake from Andreas Christensen late in the match.

Nonetheless, this is a fixture that always garners significant attention, especially from the Blues, who tend to have a better go of it. United has won just once against Chelsea in their last 14 fixtures, with the lone victory coming last season.

That said, Antonio Conte and his side have failed to exemplify consistency this year, and that includes road matches. The Blues have just two road wins in their last nine attempts across all competitions, which bodes well for the Red Devils.

The good news for Chelsea is the recent form of attacking duo Willian and Eden Hazard. The Brazilian was constantly in dangerous positions up the pitch against the Blaugrana in their recent UCL encounter, nabbing the lone goal for the Blues, while Hazard has scored six times in his last six PL matches.

The 2 Robbies: Unstoppable Liverpool, Man United-Chelsea and more

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In today’s episode, Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe discuss Liverpool’s emphatic win over West Ham (0:17), breakdown an extremely complicated relegation situation where nearly half of the league is in jeopardy of going down (10:05), before closing the show with a preview of tomorrow’s Man United v. Chelsea match (28:10).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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