By Lyes Bouzidi
- Can Rooney be Manchester United’s Match Winner?
- Rooney has not progressed since bursting onto the scene as a 16 year-old
- Where does Rooney rank amongst the top players in the world?
With Falcao and Robin Van Persie gone, the onus is on Wayne Rooney to score the goals Manchester United need to challenge for the Premier League title.
After Manchester United’s 2-0 loss to PSG, questions began to be raised by supporters from all around the world: Does Louis Van Gaal know his best starting 11? Should Depay and Mata switch positions? Should United play 4-3-3 or 4-4-2? Can Carrick and Schweinsteiger play together? Do United need a new centre back?
However, one man managed to stay out of fan’s criticism: Wayne Rooney. This had not been a good performance by United’s captain. In fact, it has been a disappointing preseason in general for Rooney, who starting in his “preferred” position, only managed one goal in 4 games. However, the media and supporters alike have not criticized Rooney once during this summer tour of the U.S. But why not?
Rooney’s Untouchable Status
It seems that Wayne Rooney can do no wrong. He is almost never criticized, and is seen as the messiah of English football in the eyes of the media. He is one of Louis Van Gaal’s favourites, and is basically an untouchable in the United hierarchy. Even David Moyes, (who awarded Rooney his 300k pound a week contract) was willing to put the two’s differences aside after their legal battles because of their time at Everton.
Rooney is seen as his team’s talisman, the player almost everyone thinks of when Manchester United is mentioned. He is captain for both club and country, where he trails only Sir Bobby Charlton as top scorer in their history. The man is paid more than 300 thousand pounds a week. He is regarded as one of the top players in the world. But after months of watching lacklustre game after lacklustre game from Rooney, I finally ask the question: Is this justified?
The only person who viewed Wayne Rooney as a regular player was Sir Alex Ferguson. He did purchase Rooney as a teenager in 2004, but as the years went on, their relationship soured. Ferguson didn’t think he was fit enough, and that he constantly came back from breaks out of shape.
During his last year, Ferguson was even dropping him in big games, such as the Champions League loss to Real Madrid, reminiscent of the manager’s spat with David Beckham. This was because while the best players were getting even better, or at least trying to stay at the top of their game, Rooney was becoming somewhat of an average player at times.
Inability To Show Up When It Truly Counts The Most
Last year, Rooney had an average season for his club, despite finishing as top scorer. However, he sometimes failed to stamp his authority over games, and could be seen going through the motions. Arguably, last year he had an excuse, as he played in a deeper midfield role, but let’s go further back.
In the last 3 seasons for Manchester United, he has failed to score more than 20 goals in the league, let alone in all competitions. Another criticism of Rooney is his ability to show up at the biggest stage in the world, such as a World Cup and UEFA Champions League.
For England, he has only scored 1 World Cup goal in three tournaments, which came in last year’s campaign where he failed to live up to the billing as the country’s superstar. In the Champions League, barring his debut hat trick against Fenerbahce, and his strike in the final in 2011 against Barcelona (which ended up being futile) he has failed to really cement himself as one of the competitions greats.
In my opinion, he is living on past glories. Since breaking onto the scene as an 18 year old superstar, he has gradually decreased in form, if not stature as he is still considered his country’s talisman.
Rooney’s Progression As A Footballer Has Stalled
Since bursting onto scene as a teenager, Wayne Rooney seems to have hit his peak. It doesn’t seem as if he has gotten any better since his early days at Man United. Here’s an accurate representation of Rooney’s growth as a footballer, or rather lack of. In 2005 to 2006, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo were recognized as somewhat of equals. Both were seen as future superstars for both club and country, but neither was seen as far superior to the other.
Flash forward to modern day, and the difference between the two is monumental. Ronaldo has won the Ballon D’or 3 times and is considered as one of the best players of all time. What has Rooney done? One PFA player of the year, and some Premier League titles that he hasn’t even been completely responsible for winning?
Sure, he’s had his moments of brilliance, like that goal against Manchester City, but for a player of his quality, he needs to be more than a player who occasionally brings supporters off their seats with a great goal. And he has the ability to do it.
Wayne Rooney Is Often Considered As One Of Top 10 Players On The Planet. But Is He Even In The Top 10 In The Premier League?
Rooney is often talked about as a world class player, but his stats suggest otherwise. Of course, he will never get the same amount of goals as Ronaldo and Messi, but let’s look further down the list of superstars. In the past 3 seasons, he has scored 41 goals in the league.
Compare that to players such as Luis Suarez or Sergio Aguero, who scored 79 and 55 respectively. The best players around score around 20 to 30 goals a season, so for Wayne Rooney to even be mentioned in the same breath as players such as Eden Hazard, Sergio Aguero, and Alexis Sanchez, let alone Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, he needs to return to the days when he would strike fear into opposition defenders, and score goal after goal after goal for United.
Manchester United Need A Match Winner
Recently, Louis Van Gaal discussed United’s need for a world class match winner, and it’s true. Teams that win titles or championships have a player in the squad who can score loads of goals, or who can run with pace at defenders and scare goalkeepers. Last season, Chelsea won the league in part thanks to their superb defence, but would they have even needed to call on their back four to perform if the likes of Hazard and Diego Costa hadn’t scored a combined amount of 34 goals in the league?
Manchester City didn’t win the league last season, but they wouldn’t have even finished in the top 4 without Aguero’s individual effort of 26 goals. And of course, you have the rare case of Barcelona, who have the luxury of having three superstars in their front line. Some teams have shown even more obviously how much of a difference a match winner makes.
Think Liverpool and Tottenham. They each had a world class player in Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale respectively. In their last season with the club, they were unplayable, and their teams reaped the rewards. Liverpool lost the league by the smallest of margins, while Tottenham were only denied Champions League football because of Chelsea win against Bayern in the final. The next season, both Suarez and Bale left for Spain, and both teams finished outside of the top four.
Manchester United have always had a match winner. In the 90’s, Eric Cantona brought glory back to Manchester almost single-handedly. In 2007, Cristiano Ronaldo broke records left and right for the club, winning the Champions League and Ballon D’Or. United’s most recent match winner was Robin Van Persie, who proved to be the difference between failure on goal difference to winning the league by over 10 points.
Can Rooney Be The Difference Maker?
Rooney needs to add to that list of match winners. With RVP gone this season, the spotlight is placed firmly on Rooney to succeed. He is perfectly capable of being that man, too. Wayne Rooney is not a bad player by any stretch of the imagination. He is still a versatile player who can play almost any attacking position, as well as the role of a deep lying midfielder. He still has the ability to score from any angle, and he is still a leader to everyone. He can find a team mate from a pass from 50 yards away, and his shot is as ferocious as ever.
What is holding Wayne Rooney back from becoming the player he once was is an attribute that he once was actually criticized for: his temper. As a youngster bursting on to the scene, Rooney was said to be too angry on the field, almost making Roy Keane seem like a shy personality. However, it seems like these days Rooney is too quiet on the field (barring his rage against Leicester). For Rooney to shine this season, he needs to rekindle the fire that he once had that made him one of the most dangerous forwards in Europe.
All The Parts Are In Place For Rooney To Have A Successful Season
He is spearheading a Manchester United front line glittering with creative gems. This transfer window, Louis Van Gaal has splashed the cash and provided Rooney with some of Europe’s top attacking players.
The question is not whether players like Depay, Schweinsteiger, and Mata can provide the bullets, but whether Rooney can fire the gun. If he doesn’t, Manchester United will struggle to build on last season’s fourth place finish. However, if Rooney recreates his previous goal scoring form, the possibilities are endless for Manchester United’s campaign.