It’s that time again, Wayne Rooney is on international duty with England and is currently being absolutely slated by the British press. After his return from injury on Friday night at Wembley against Peru, questions marks have been raised about whether he actually merits a place in the starting XI for his country. Undoubtedly this has also tied in with concerns about his role at Manchester United come next season.
With the arrival of Louis Van Gaal this summer things are set for a shake up at Old Trafford, and the vibrant Dutchman quite clearly favours his teams to play with only one focal striker. The close relationship between the new manager and Robin Van Persie is also very well documented, so is it time United cash in on 28 year old Wayne Rooney?
After kicking up a fuss again last summer and being rewarded with yet another lucrative contact the Englishman started the season in fine form. In fact, Wayne Rooney played 29 games in the Premier League this campaign for Manchester United, scoring 17 goals and weighing in with a total of 10 assists. Not bad for a terrible player actually is it.
The truth is however, the goals dried up as the season progressed along with the player’s performances. Everyone knows that the striker can produce world class moments of brilliance on his day, but his game is just not consistent enough at present. Sir Alex Ferguson reiterated on several occasions in the past that Rooney needs a run of games in order to produce his very best form, but the issue is that he never seems fit enough to string together this run of games, thus raising concerns on his general physical condition.
There is a strong argument to suggest that United’s number ten reached his peak when in his mid twenties. A compelling question can be asked, when was the last time you walked away from the ground in complete awe of a Wayne Rooney performance? This question doesn’t incorporate those moments of brilliance which he undoubtedly can produce, but his overall performance throughout the ninety minutes of football. Compare this to between the years of 2004-2009, and I think you may well find that gone are the days when you left a football match raving about Wayne Rooney on a weekly basis.
Could it be that a certain Cristiano Ronaldo that left the club in 2009 actually kept United’s highest earner on his toes? Ronaldo’s departure may have ceased Rooney’s drive and progression as a footballer, with the lack of competition having a damming impact. That is perhaps unfair as the Englishman produced his best goalscoring season that very year, netting an impressive 34 times in total. Although, move on to the present day, Wayne Rooney is now in a squad that undoubtedly lacks quality, and he is also the highest paid footballer in the country. Possibly life has just become far too easy for the 28 year old who no longer has that burning passion and desire to play football to the level he once could. A new challenge might possibly be needed. It stems a minor resemblance to the great George Best, another unique talent who gradually lost his motives and desire to play the beautiful game.
A common and easy point to pick upon in any argument is to bring the players wages into subject, and this is perhaps what the press have done unfairly in the build up to this summer in Brazil. This is an exceedingly good chance for Rooney to dispel all his critics over his ability on the world’s biggest stage, and in fairness it is about time he produced. At the end of the day, last summer Wayne Rooney negotiated to become the highest paid footballer in England, hence also suggesting that he believes he is the best player in England. If that is the case then he has to accept the pressure he has heaped upon his own shoulders, grab this summer’s tournament by two hands and produces the goods.
It is maybe about time then that this country’s greatest talent actually gets to play in his best position. On Friday night and again on numerous times for United he has been deployed in that frustratingly way overused position in football these days, that’s right, the number ten role. Wayne Rooney is not a number ten, he is a goalscorer and he should be occupying that area on the pitch where he can do what he does best. When thrust in that hole behind the striker he ends up completely out of sorts, constantly dropping deep into ineffective areas to find the ball, crowding the midfield area and wearing himself out in the process. Wayne Rooney’s most consistent form and most successful seasons have come when playing as an out and out striker. Going back to England, if Hodgson views Sturridge as a better option up top, then he should have the bottle to drop Rooney. Simple.
Touching upon the new Van Gaal reign again at United, if there is no room for the striker in his favoured position, what else can the new manager do to really get the foremost out of him? The answer is that famous captains armband. Time and time again in the past we have seen that a happy Wayne Rooney can and most importantly will play anywhere for his team. Take the Champions League Final in 2008, he was more than willing to play on the left flank for a side that was prospering by both winning games and trophies. Making the Englishman captain may rekindle that sparkle that his game is currently missing, and without question many Reds would adore to see Wayne Rooney play with that same hunger that made him the big name that he has become within his profession. Let’s also not forget that Sir Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record is on the horizon for Rooney. For a player who is apparently not world class, it wouldn’t be a bad feat to be Manchester United’s record goalscorer.
This summer is massive in terms of Wayne Rooney proving that he is still a world class footballer. What better stage than Brazil to evoke to the world his ability and also demonstrate to Louis Van Gaal that he should and will be United’s key man next season. If not, is a Wayne Rooney played in an ineffective position a player Manchester United really need? The possible transfer funds and wages may seemingly be used to bolster the squad elsewhere. However, last season’s stats of 23 goals and 19 assists for club and country are on the Englishman’s side, a good return for a player in the number ten role and not certainly not an easy tally to replace. For now the English press and public may salvage some decency and get of the player’s back, at least until the World Cup is over. Tuesday nights huge fist-pump when celebrating his goal in the friendly against Ecuador conveys that the star is human, and he does in fact care.