Declining Rooney an asset to realise

Rooney West Ham United

It is difficult to accept but the current Manchester United side is simply not good enough to impose its style on other teams. No shame in that though – only one team in the world, Barcelona, is capable of doing that. So broadly speaking, Sir Alex Ferguson faces two options: maximising the team’s attacking potential to take advantage of opponents’ weaknesses or setting out to defend and minimise opponents’ chances of scoring.

Complexity of the modern game is such that those two ‘ideals’ often actualise to the same time. In the recent tie against Real Madrid, for example, the Scot pitted Nani, United’s best dribbler, against Alvaro Arbeloa, the weak link in any Real Madrid line-up. At the same time, the manager deployed Danny Welbeck to take Xabi Alonso, the metronome of Real Madrid’s attacking play, out of the game. This is a job that would normally have been given to Wayne Rooney, who was surprisingly found on the bench.

Rooney has since started, and scored against, both Chelsea and Reading to quell media stories of a summer departure, but questions about his worth remain.

Time flies. Wayne “remember the name” Rooney is now 27. The two-time winner of the English player of the year, Rooney has enjoyed a storied career, but there is no denying that more was expected of him. The striker is one of the best, but he should have been among the very best – up there with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi among the game’s élite. Instead, at least in the big games, the Englishman is more often charged with doing the defensive work.

Jonathan Wilson of Inverting the Pyramid fame once described Rooney as an “advanced box-to-box player.” Rooney has become something of a jack of all trades. His all-roundedness has been a great asset though. When playing as a number ten, Rooney harnesses his goal-scoring instincts to great effects. As a striker, he helps out in midfield.

In fact, it is this versatility that enables Ferguson to use Rooney to nullify opposition threat. Ji-Sung Park, and to lesser extent Antonio Valencia, have also been used in the same role, but offer less attacking prowess than the United number 10. The Scot can deploy Rooney to babysit the opposition left-back, for example, and count on the player to be an active and devastating participant in counter-attack.

Lately though, Rooney has been dropping the ball defensively. In the 2010/11 Champions League final against Barcelona he left Sergio Busquets free, which allowed Barcelona to completely dominate midfield. Against Italy in Euro 2012, Rooney’s nonchalant marking of Andrea Pirlo instigated Joe Hart to publicly chastise the England striker.

Just a few weeks ago, Rooney’s failure to stick to Fabio Coentrao resulted, among others, in a shot that forced an exceptional save from David De Gea.

One major problem, perhaps the major problem, is the decline in Rooney’s physical assets. The former Evertonian has lost a yard of pace and can no longer cover the occasional lapse in defensive positioning. Rooney, wanting perhaps to be more of a fulcrum, could very well be fed up with being a defensive player shunted out to the flanks, although this theory is directly at odds with his chasing of ‘lost causes’ during games. Ferguson is too canny a man manager to deploy someone of that mindset to do the dirty work anyway.

This deterioration of physical attributes carries worrying repercussions. Rooney has never been the greatest technically; never a trickster in the Messi mould. Instead, he used his pace and agility to get past players. With this blistering pace under question, it is becoming rarer that Rooney beats his man.

The Champions League is – pardon the Americanism – a whole other ball game than the Premier League. For one, teams at the business end of the tournament are of better quality. In turn, the competition causes teams, wary of the opposition threat, to be more defensive and patient. More sides have come to adopt a counter-attacking mindset and, in turn, it causes a vicious cycle of ever deeper play.

Additionally, some managers have begun deploying players to limit the influences of deep-lying midfielders and fullbacks, whose influence grows as the play is stretched.

In this context it has become harder to trust Rooney with the defensive job – Sir Alex’ decision to use Danny Welbeck over the former Everton player to mark Alonso in the recent tie against Madrid at Old Trafford is proof.

In fact Rooney’s primacy in any position is under threat. He no longer has the pace to trouble other teams in the counterattack. Welbeck, however, does. Javier Hernández and Robin Van Persie are better finishers, while in Shinji Kagawa United has a number ten who is faster, smarter and more technically gifted than Rooney.

The Englishman edges each in physical strength, but European referees are happier than Premier League counterparts to blow the whistle.

There is no denying that Rooney is still a fine all-round player and one exceptionally suited for the Premier League. Few are ready to discard the 28-year-old from United’s squad, but there are equally plenty of questions to answer.

Slowly but surely Rooney’s physical decline will accelerate – not aided by the fact that he does not take good care of his body. This is more than troubling.

By contrast Ryan Giggs’ physical decline is more than made up by excellent technical skills and better understanding of the game. Rooney has shown no sign of improvement in these fields.

United is big enough that the Reds can afford to keep Rooney around – even at the reported £250,000 per week – but Rooney’s is an asset that is also at its peak. Which begs the question: should United sell?

Despite United’s huge Premier League lead, Ferguson may still spend in the summer. Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia are limited at best, while Luis Nani is erratic and could very well be gone by the start of next season anyway. Given the importance of width in the modern game, United desperately needs some new stardust in the area considering Wilfred Zaha is still raw.

In midfield, Michael Carrick’s successor will be required sooner or later. Despite letting his colleagues do the harrying, Carrick often tops the ‘ground covered’ charts because he is constantly on the move, closing down angles and taking up good positions. In fact, deep-lying playmakers are so important that Zonal Marking’s Michael Cox considers Carrick’s absence as one of key reasons why United was knocked out of the Champions League last season. Replacing the Geordie will be undoubtedly expensive.

Moreover, in Rooney United has an asset that has every possibility of depreciating sharply. With additions needed in the squad, and relatively little money to spend, there is a solid argument to letting Rooney go – after all there are already players within the squad who can more or less replicate his contribution.

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Comments

  1. RobDiablo RobDiablo says:

    Recognizing the possibility that English is not your first language, what does this sentence mean: “Complexity of the modern game is such that the two ‘ideals’ often actualise to the same time.”?

    • A needlessly pedantic way of saying, “These days, you often have to do both at the same time”.

      • RobDiablo says:

        Pedantry doesn’t begin to enter into it, as the sentence is both a grammatical nightmare and inaccurate. To win at football, a side must score and, at the same time, prevent the opposition from scoring as many or more goals as it does. Therefore, the need to balance attack and defense has been an integral part of football since its inception over a century ago and is not, in fact, a modern complexity of the sport.

  2. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadffs says:

    the return of jay shon

    the han of article writers

  3. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadffs says:

    RobDiablo said:
    Recognizing the possibility that English is not your first language, what does this sentence mean: “Complexity of the modern game is such that the two ‘ideals’ often actualise to the same time.”?

    clearly he means the modern game is pinchbeck

  4. RobDiablo RobDiablo says:

    uncleknobheadffs said:
    clearly he means the modern game is pinchbeck

    If by “modern game” he means the current United side’s on-field performances, I’d have to agree. Pure pinchbeck.

  5. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    uncleknobheadffs said:
    the return of jay shon

    the han of article writers

    I was the first one to call Jay Shon a crap article writer… tbf…

  6. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    It must be frustrating as fuck, to put so much effort in… only to have everyone shit on it, right out of the gate.

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

  7. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    By the way… there was another pointless, but interesting “opta stat”, before the game… so far this year, Rooney has been involved in a Premier League goal,(scoring or assisting),every 75 minutes this season… his best rate ever.

  8. reddread says:

    I’m not even going to get started on what’s wrong with this article. Notwithstanding the frankly bizarre syntax, it’s just full of inaccuracies. To name but one, Rooney hasn’t got better at reading the game or his technical skills? Really?

    “The longbow beats the crossbow, my idiotic friend”

    LUHG

  9. Denton Davey says:

    I’m not particularly offended by bizarre syntax or other linguistic inaccuracies, the point is well taken: wither TheWayneBoy ?

    To my way of thinking (!) he’s got to be moved into midfield to partner MC16 in the ScholesRole. Keeping him as a “forward” is too costly because it marginalizes Chicharito and KagwaBunga, both of whom offer more attacking zip.

  10. That whole article, and in particular the final paragraph has to be a joke?! Surely!? UnitedRant, you’re articles have previously infuriated me but some things you’ve said have been valid. This however, is bordering on farcical! Your lack of appreciation of Rooney’s talent, contribution and influence to this team is staggering! You clearly know very little about the beautiful game! Hope you’re joking. I’m ynfolloring you regardless. You’re just a bit of a tit.

  11. ForeverRed says:

    The team balance is wrong. Square pegs in round holes won’t solve our problems. It’s clear we’ve got a bunch of number 10s, but few worthy CMs. To my mind Rooney, Kagawa Welbeck and Young are all pretty much interchangeable as number 10s (with varying strengths/weaknesses), but the same cannot be said for our central midfield. The doughnut hole. Anderson, Cleverley – just not up to it. Carrick needs a partner now, but heck, he’s 31 – who’ll be replacing him? Some serious buying necessary since we let Pogba go and appear to want to wait until Powell is 23 before we start ‘easing’ him in.

  12. captainhormone captainhormone says:

    I’m not reading this

  13. brianofnazareth brianofnazareth says:

    Alfonso Bedoya said:

    It must be frustrating as fuck, to put so much effort in… only to have everyone shit on it, right out of the gate.

    I can honestly say, I’ve never read a single article off rant.

  14. Pikey McScum Pikey McScum says:

    Tried reading it.

    Realised the writer and Davey are from the same inbred family.

    Stopped.

  15. Blogs are generally fucking boring

    People talking about things they like and thoughts they’ve had

    Cba

  16. Denton Davey says:

    Pikey @ 4:14: “the writer and Davey are from the same inbred family.”

    I just checked the family-tree, he’s no relation – but if you go back to Adam then I’m sure we have some DNA in common.

  17. Violent Banana says:

    When’s Herbie going to write a blog about his golfing weekend with Taggart, Cantona and Jeff Stelling?

  18. “Declining Rooney an asset to REALISE”

    Don’t you mean

    “Declining Rooney an asset to RELEASE”?

  19. Rooney’s best position is centre forward.

  20. Pikey McScum Pikey McScum says:

    Wayne Rooney is a man

  21. Pikey McScum Pikey McScum says:

    Commenter said:
    Pikey @ 4:14: “the writer and Davey are from the same inbred family.”
    I just checked the family-tree, he’s no relation – but if you go back to Adam then I’m sure we have some DNA in common.
    </blockquote

    Ever heard of Darwin?
    There was no Adam

    “Fuck that… there’s something about him, gets on my wick… weasly little cunt, needs a good slap”

  22. but it started in Africa.

  23. RobDiablo RobDiablo says:

    Just1n said:
    but it started in Africa.

    AIDS?

  24. captainhormone captainhormone says:

    Tbf..HIV is the start…it evolves to aids

  25. captainhormone said:
    Tbf..HIV is the start…it evolves to aids

    and here i thought it was Rock Hudsons love affair with a monkey.

  26. Pikey McScum Pikey McScum says:

    It can be cured now apparently

  27. Commenter said:
    Pikey @ 4:14: “the writer and Davey are from the same inbred family.”

    I just checked the family-tree, he’s no relation – but if you go back to Adam then I’m sure we have some DNA in common.

    Czuk?

  28. Pikey McScum Pikey McScum says:

    sheesh said:
    Czuk?

    Which incarnation?

    He was a useless toys-out-of-the-pram throwing fecker and I hope never to hear from him again

  29. We need a center mid. We all know that. When fletcher was in the team Rooney scored 35 goals or something. He is being asked to do everything and criticized for failing. He remains one of the few world class players we have.

    And Wellbeck? Give me a break. He is a forward who does not score.

  30. Pikey McScum Pikey McScum says:

    Commenter said:
    That whole article, and in particular the final paragraph has to be a joke?! Surely!? UnitedRant, you’re articles have previously infuriated me but some things you’ve said have been valid. This however, is bordering on farcical! Your lack of appreciation of Rooney’s talent, contribution and influence to this team is staggering! You clearly know very little about the beautiful game! Hope you’re joking. I’m ynfolloring you regardless. You’re just a bit of a tit.

    I wouldn’t necessarily tarnish Ed with the same brush as Jay – Ed’s articles are exceptional pieces of literary prose in comparison.

    Although Ed does have a lot to answer for, namely why is Jay a mod and why is he allowed to post such utter muck?

    I demand Jay be buggered!

  31. Commenter said:
    That whole article, and in particular the final paragraph has to be a joke?! Surely!? UnitedRant, you’re articles have previously infuriated me but some things you’ve said have been valid. This however, is bordering on farcical! Your lack of appreciation of Rooney’s talent, contribution and influence to this team is staggering! You clearly know very little about the beautiful game! Hope you’re joking. I’m ynfolloring you regardless. You’re just a bit of a tit.

    Yeah? Well I already ynfollored you. You tit!

  32. That said, I agree entirely with your point.

  33. Pikey McScum Pikey McScum says:

    How are we progressing on the Jay buggery?

  34. I split him in twain.

  35. Pikey McScum Pikey McScum says:

    reddread said:
    I split him in twain.

    Lol!

    His back door has been vanquished

  36. Sell. He’s simply not earning his salary and hasn’t done since he got his payrise, to be quite frank.

    He’s not been the same since Ronnie left really.

  37. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    Commenter said:
    Sell. He’s simply not earning his salary and hasn’t done since he got his payrise, to be quite frank.

    He’s not been the same since Ronnie left really.

    Bollocks!

    He’s not had a great year by HIS standards, but one look at his stats, and you can see he’s still one of the top 5 players in the league…

    Who would you swap him for?

  38. Keep Rooney. He’s essential to this team. Won’t hear otherwise (at least for the time being).

  39. Coach Herbie says:

    I don’t know about all this nonsense, but I see we are already on the move to buy world class players for next season. We just signed Ezequiel Garay, the 26 year old Argentine central defender and there is another striker and midfielder coming in. I do believe we ilywill spend and sell heavily this summer because SAF really wants to get his hand on the Champions league trophy before he retires. We had a lot of injury problems to both Vidic and Ferdinand and I’ve seen him play for Benfica, a class act and 6’4″ tall.

  40. Started reading and got to paragraph 2 before I had to look and check. Then I saw it was Jay Shon and realised why it was such soporific tripe. Embarrased I read that much.

  41. Pikey McScum Pikey McScum says:

    Commenter said:
    I don’t know about all this nonsense, but I see we are already on the move to buy world class players for next season. We just signed Ezequiel Garay, the 26 year old Argentine central defender and there is another striker and midfielder coming in. I do believe we ilywill spend and sell heavily this summer because SAF really wants to get his hand on the Champions league trophy before he retires. We had a lot of injury problems to both Vidic and Ferdinand and I’ve seen him play for Benfica, a class act and 6’4″ tall.

    Fuck

    off

  42. Herbie Simms enters the fray….who’s going to replace Fergal?

  43. Wayne Rooney has 52 goals and 28 assists ( at total of 80) in his last 74 games for Manchester United.. and has scored 100 goals for United since the departure of C.Ronaldo… He lost pace?? stop bluffing he is just concentrating on holding possession in the attacking third since the arrival of RvP.. How can even complain about the defensive abilities of a No.10? Can you even name someone even from the elites’ like Messi and others who can attack and defend and also contribute in possession the way this man does??

  44. Commenter said:
    I don’t know about all this nonsense, but I see we are already on the move to buy world class players for next season. We just signed Ezequiel Garay, the 26 year old Argentine central defender and there is another striker and midfielder coming in. I do believe we ilywill spend and sell heavily this summer because SAF really wants to get his hand on the Champions league trophy before he retires. We had a lot of injury problems to both Vidic and Ferdinand and I’ve seen him play for Benfica, a class act and 6’4″

    I am pinning my hopes on you Coach Herbie. Please don’t let me down with your predictions.

  45. Superb article, nail-on-head with everything really. If Kagawa settles next season as many believe, Rooney could find his starts increasingly limited. He has surprisingly good stats, but not from the wings. RVP is already better, and if Kag follows…well, Rooney better hope one of them gets injured. Or accept a squad role. I don’t know who’ll take this harder – Rooney or the fanboys. Rooney fan-boys still think he’ll lead England to glory in Brazil next year, LMAO!

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