Much of the build-up to Saturday's monumental meeting between United and Chelsea at Old Trafford has inevitably centred on Rooney's absence but Carlo Ancelotti on Friday offered a different perspective on the Champions during the past eight months.
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Improved a lot? That was a bold statement to make. Few regard the departure of Ronaldo as an enhancement to this United squad although, as when Ruud van Nistelrooy was also sold to Real Madrid, allowing the Portuguese to flourish, there has been a liberation for certain players: primarily, but not only, Rooney.
"Rooney this year did a fantastic job with the wingers," Ancelotti said, praising Ryan Giggs, Nani and Antonio Valencia also.
"A lot of matches were tactically very good. Against Milan tactically they played very well. They don't give a lot of chances to concede. They are very compact as a team and prefer to defend well and counter. They're very able to do this because the wingers are very fast," he said.
What Ancelotti likes about United, above all, is that they have an 'identity', which is what he has obsessively stated he wants to create at Chelsea.
That, of course, takes time, a commodity that Abramovich has not permitted previous coaches. Despite all the denials, if Ancelotti does not at the very least run United to the wire in the league and win the FA Cup then the pressure will grow again.
It makes it all the more admirable that, in the face of this command to win, Ancelotti has stuck to an attacking approach although that is something, also, that Abramovich has insisted upon.
Chelsea have scored more, 82 times in the league already this season in 32 matches, and conceded more heavily than ever before under the Abramovich regime. It is not, perhaps, what you might expect from a coach schooled in catenaccio.
"In Italy the team that won Serie A was not the team that scored most but the one that conceded less," Ancelotti explained. "But here we are in England. Scoring goals is important. If you want to win you have to score.
"We want to play our football. Our football is to attack and keep control of the game. It's the most difficult game to do this. United want to do the same because they are at home. This is a fight and I think that will decide the match."
So is he atypical to his homeland? "I don't consider myself an attacking coach," Ancelotti said. "I am Italian and the fortune of Italian football is defensive. I like defence. I like balance. I am a balanced coach. I do like to hurt the opposition.
"My aim is to attack and play football but first is balance. I don't like to concede goals or counter-attacks. The easiest way to score is counter. If you attack badly, you can concede counter-attacks."
On Saturday Ancelotti will have to get that balance right. Although he would settle for a draw, a victory would strike a deep psychological blow to United and wrestle the advantage.
Ancelotti will start with Didier Drogba and probably Nicolas Anelka despite racking up 12 goals in the past two league games with only one or other of the strikers playing.
"They give a lot of quality and strength, they give experience," Ancelotti said while conceding they have not necessarily clicked in tandem in recent games.
"I think I try to put the team with the best players, with more quality. Drogba and Anelka have more quality and I think they did very well together."
Frank Lampard and Florent Malouda, also, have been impressive with the former gaining special praise from Ancelotti "a very dangerous midfielder" who has surprised the Italian with his "timing".
Timing is everything and so to Saturday's game. It could not be more ideally set, Rooney's injury apart, and what will be Ancelotti's message to his team? "I have experience of this game," he said in reference to his CV for the big occasions.
"You have to do your best to show your quality, put it on the pitch and show personality and courage. I hope to see this."
And so, even without Rooney, does the rest of the world.