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UNITEDRANT

Despite recent goals the old Wayne Rooney is unlikely to be back

January 18, 2016 Tags: , Opinion 24 comments
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The modern football bubble lives week-to-week. More often than not opinion changes week-to-week as well. Take Wayne Rooney, who ended 2015 in dire form, and has begun 2016 on a scoring streak. The striker has five goals in four games, including two penalties, but some seem to have forgotten the player’s struggle throughout the previous year. Burst of form aside, the larger sample size of yesteryear has a greater bearing on our assessment of the player than four games ever could.

The Manchester United captain scored with a brilliant flick against Swansea City to kick off 2016 in style, securing a pivotal victory for a struggling team. Rooney’s critics were put to the sword and his advocates felt justified in claiming that the “Rooney of old” has reappeared to save United when the club needed him most.

The following week Rooney bagged a late penalty after an injury time foul on Memphis Depay to kick off the ‘streak’. And during this past week Rooney enjoyed his best display in a long time at Newcastle United in the Reds’ 3-3 at St. James Park, before scoring the winner at Anfield on Sunday.

Hyperbole has taken control of the narrative though – for some the Rooney of days-gone-by has returned to save his club. It is an exaggeration of course. The Englishman certainly could not have begun 2016 in worse form than he ended the past year, but to assume a player of Rooney’s age, injury history and physical condition can return to his best is surely far-fetched.

After all, Rooney turned 30 last October, and his age is exacerbated by injury and physical excursion lasting years. The striker has been a regular feature in the Premier League since April 2002, when he made his breakthrough for Everton against Southampton. In October that year he scored that now famous landmark strike against Arsenal, which paved the way for his early success on Merseyside and, later, for a £25.6 million move to the Theatre of Dreams.

Burn out

At the time of going to print, Rooney’s personal website credits him with having played 689 professional games and logging 53,991 on the pitch. It is an astounding amount player time for an athlete of his age and a significant amount of wear and tear on the player’s body. Almost 14 years of Premier League football would take its toll on anyone.

This is even more relevant for Rooney, who has suffered had his share of injuries throughout a brilliant career. According to PhysioRoom Rooney has missed games through 66 various injuries and ailments since 2002. Allied to the heavy workload, it is not unfair to suggest that Rooney’s 30-year-old legs might be a bit older than the face-value. Foot, ankle, knee, hamstring; Rooney has injured it all.

This is, of course, less of an indictment on the player than an explanation for Rooney’s decline. It is a superb career that cannot defeat father time. Physical decline catches all players, although the best adapt. Over at Real Madrid Cristiano Ronaldo has moved roles to become more of a finisher rather than a dribbler. The former United player is now on the end of Madrid’s attacks rather than providing the cut and thrust from the wings. It takes less of a toll physically, and will allow Ronaldo to extend his career.

Of course Ronaldo and Rooney have both enjoyed storied careers, although that is where the fair comparison ends. Ronaldo’s level has been taken to another stratosphere – and in this one of the main differences between the players has been the Portuguese winger’s physicality and conditioning. Whilst Rooney was once a terrific athlete, with a fine combination of power and pace, Ronaldo might well be the best all around athlete and complete footballer the sport has ever seen. He is, in fact, obsessed with his condition and will star on the cover of GQ’s body issue to prove it.

Professionalism

By contrast Rooney has often been criticised for a lack of dedication to his craft. It probably one of the core reasons why Rooney never reached Ronaldo’s level. After all, the Scouser has always been a social drinker and smoker, and athletes pay the price down the track for the choices they make off the pitch.

Decline is not a new story though. Rooney has been on the downturn since Sir Alex Ferguson’s last season in charge of the club, with his production steadily declining. Despite a brief upturn under David Moyes, Rooney’s output has dropped from 27 goals and four assists in 2011/12 to only six goals and two assists in the league so far this campaign.

Louis van Gaal’s negative tactics certainly play a part, denying Rooney more goalscoring opportunities, but it is ultimately naïve to pin the player’s struggles on his manager. Rooney is unable to lead the line as the lone frontman – a role that has not always suited him well. On Sunday, in a one-on-one race with Kolo Toure, the Ivorian – no speedster these days – comfortably won.

Yet, Rooney does not have the first touch or creative vision to be a true number 10 either, and is famously unwilling to play wide. Ultimately this does the player no favours – the versatility that was once an asset is no longer so.

Newcastle

It’s also worth noting that Rooney’s best performance this season came against Newcastle in an open match. Despite the goal, his level certainly dropped against Liverpool. Indeed, the player has become a flat-track bully – his goals this season have come against Club Brugge, Ipswich Town, Sunderland, Everton, CSKA Moscow, Swansea City, Sheffield United, Newcastle and now Liverpool. Just one against a team in the top 10 of the Premier League.

Still, in the short-term United might enjoy an improvement in his production. Rooney scores in bursts, but the player of years past is long gone. In time Rooney would do well to adjust his style if he wants to prolong his career. It is probably long over due.

No, the former Rooney is not back, but he might just be relevant again.

24 comments

Patrick Dobbs - January 18, 2016 Reply

agreed but let it breathe FFS…He just scored a poised classy finish 24 hours ago…Sure he is finito but you

Ed - January 19, 2016 Reply

Why shouldn’t Adam express his opinion, or does he now need to ask you permission to do that?

Sam Evanson - January 18, 2016 Reply

nice Adam

DayusDred. - January 18, 2016 Reply

Are u sure u got your facts right. Rooney unwilling to play from the wings? May i remind u he played mostly from the between 2007-09 season. As matter of fact he started most of the big games on the wings in a front three of Ronaldo ,Teves and Rooney. (Barca/Man Utd CL semi final). You also claimed he cant lead the line on his own. The last time i checked, the two times he scored 34 goals a season he led the line. Rooney has paid his dues. Hate him or like him, United folklores will not be completed without his name.

Realist - January 18, 2016 Reply

He moaned about not playing in the strikers role when he spat his dummy out at Fergie and said he needed to be more selfish and think about himself. So that bit is factually correct!

Olatunji dayo - January 18, 2016 Reply

Rooney unwilling to play from the wings? Cant lead the line? Come on

timbo - January 18, 2016 Reply

Crap. Rooney has been the biggest anchor round the club’s neck, as Ferguson realized in his last season in charge. The guy is extremely limited in what he can do and basically has to have his goals handed to him on a plate from less than 10 yards out. He can’t make a goal for himself to save his life, and unlike great players who make others better he sucks the very marrow out of the team through the fact others have to sacrifice their own games to bring out the best in him – which is why so many strike partners have fallen by the wayside through the years. Look at his goal output and you’ll note that the vast majority have been made for him by others, with most either tap-ins, simple efforts, or opportunistic goals from the attempts of others, like the rebound from Fellaini’s attempt against Liverpool. RVN was also a poacher, but he had a killer eye for goal, great speed, and much better skill when shooting. Bottom line is that United won’t improve until they either bench Rooney or simply move him on. These latest goals simply highlight the lie that Rooney represents.

Zahid - January 19, 2016 Reply

Yo Timbo, you in a limbo? Rooney has been the best player for United for a long time now. He’s been playing week in week out and had been performing pretty well. Barring the beginning of this season, he’s been brilliant as you can play him in any role. Under LVG, he’s been constricted to playing up to, but we have seen him play best when he’s given a free rein in the field and is moving seamlessly between attack and defense.

Ed - January 19, 2016 Reply

Good story. Fantasy, but a good story

Opti - January 20, 2016 Reply

Zahid, are you watching season review videos again? This ain’t 06-09 anymore…

Subterranean Steve - January 19, 2016 Reply

Rooney has certainly become a polarizing figure, when an even-handed, moderate article arouses the ire of axe-grinders in our midst..

Pete Naphasorn Webb - January 19, 2016 Reply

Rooney should be behind Martial,rooney hasnt got the legs to play up top,and martial is f…g wasted on the wing..

Mark Fenton - January 19, 2016 Reply

He’s 30 + ffs…the old Bobby Charlton won’t becoming back either. Move on boys…

Rohit Chaturvedi - January 19, 2016 Reply

y do u always hav to luk at d -ve side of things? man scores but u go find some miniscule -vity & rite abt it.

Rich - January 19, 2016 Reply

Rohit, perhaps you could find some positives in Adam’s article?

Ed - January 19, 2016 Reply

How about writing in proper sentences? How’s that for finding something negative!

Redzebs - January 21, 2016 Reply

Frig me Ed, are the article writers not allowed to reply to their own comments?

How’s about a wee bit more of your banter in the forums where it is sorely missed or try and all this fresh blood to sign up?

Rohit Chaturvedi - January 19, 2016 Reply

its as if u dearly want him to fail so u can say-look I said so. Little u realise his failure is United’s failure

lightbulb - January 19, 2016 Reply

doesn’t take as many long range shots as he should. Without thinking, just slam. It’s a gift he has

Tom - January 19, 2016 Reply

Against Liverpool he was awful until he scored the goal. Everything bounced off him. Martial was the one doing the hold up play. I dearly want him to play something like his best again but apart from the Newcastle game the evidence suggests otherwise.

P-Nut - January 20, 2016 Reply

The views on Rooney being so poor are only due to the fact of what he once was. Comparing him to other premier league strikers at the moment there are maybe 2 or 3 I’d rather have in the team than him. If we could sign a striker from the prem at the moment to replace Rooney can you name me more than 3 that would be a definite improvement??

Sakhile - January 22, 2016 Reply

There’s just no winning here. Will we be throwing poo at Wayne until he hangs up is boots. He’s had a rubbish season, even he knows that, but he’s played far better in the last five to six games than the whole of last year. Give the guy credit, he’s taken all the criticism on the chin and gotten on with his footy. That burst of pace from Herrera’s through ball vs Newcastle and the pass to Lingaard was glimpse of what he’s been about his entire career, he’s an intelligent footballer and the goals he’s scored (not so much last year) also says he’s a goal scorer, records don’t lie. United as a whole are rubbish to watch at the moment but some form from Wayne will go a long way.

chris - March 16, 2016 Reply

nice article. agreed he is a shadow of what he once is. the facts don’t lie. everytime we debate his virtues he splits views due to his big reputation. yet with his big big reputation, wages and experience he was found wanting very badly. all the try out strikers have been able to do what he could when given bulk of his time upfront he should have been scoring or creating more which is not the case. if the youngsters can be near or equal of what he could do then surely he is either not the player he once was or have not tried enough or simply woefully out of form.

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