Rejuvenated Rooney is truly the complete footballer

As United powered through to the semi-finals of the Champions League at the expense of our old adversary’s Chelsea, there was much to savour after another Stella performance from the boys in Red. Ryan Giggs once again rolled back the years with another terrific showing alongside the revitalised Michael Carrick. Ji-Sung Park covered a staggering twelve kilometres and Javier Hernandez showed again what an astute purchase he is. For me, though, it was all about our talismanic number ten…

After an out of sorts season (to say the least) accompanied by shenanigans off it, Wazza has finally found his feet and, don’t worry Ray Wilkins, he’ll be staying on them. I’ve long said it but for me, we already have the answer to the Paul Scholes problem in one Wayne Rooney. I am a huge admirer of the likes of Wesley Sneijder and Bastian Schweinsteiger but why spend large sums of money when you already have the talent at your fingertips? Now who am I to preach, if Rooney is to replace Scholes in United’s midfield I’m sure Ferguson will have identified this, probably when everyone was raving about how Rooney should be played as the target man, right up front. On Tuesday night, though, he was sensational, love him or hate him you have to appreciate his talent, so I say forget the crap and get behind a marvellous footballer who could yet be the lynchpin of many more years of United success.

Chelsea couldn’t get near him and they didn’t have a clue where he was half the time and neither did many inside Old Trafford as Wayne popped up on the left, the right, up top and then on the edge of our own area. Double this with the lightning pace of Chicharito, we had the best defence in the Premier League extremely worried. On the biggest stage he gave a performance Keane, Robson, Whiteside and Ince would have all be proud off although in truth he wasn’t exactly midfield.  To quote the great Sir Matt Busby it was as if Sir Alex said to the Croxteth born forward “just go out and play son”; Wayne was given a free role just behind Hernandez and sat in front of the effective Carrick and Giggs.

Without doubt this newly forged partnership of Hernandez and Rooney is the future, it is flourishing and is getting better by the game; what a shame it is that the two cannot be let loose on Manchester City on Saturday as I would love nothing more than to see them take City apart. No matter though, how many clubs do you know that can call on the League’s top goal scorer as back up, I am an admirer of Berbatov and he undoubtedly has a part to play at United but at thirty he must know himself the future rests with the twenty-five year old Rooney and the 22 year old Mexican, Hernandez.

The Rooney-Hernandez axis is a relatively new experiment in truth though; in 2010 they played with each other once against Rangers at home the next time was against Wigan at the DW Stadium in February. Since that game they have played together seven times scored seven between them and have three assists, remarkable.

The free role just behind the striker is perfect for Wayne as it utilises his appetite for football in the best possible way. If you look at the diagram below you can see the influence that Wayne carries in this position, spreading passes in all areas of the pitch.

Admittedly if there were any weaknesses in his game you could argue his passing percentage rate could have been better, however this is still a 78% pass completion rate which against a team with the quality of Chelsea and for a guy who isn’t Paul Scholes (yet) is extremely respectable. Furthermore Wayne offers energy and terrific tackling ability which aren’t Scholesy’s strong points, incidentally Rooney covered eleven kilometres.

Of course playing Rooney deeper would possibly restrict his goal return, he would probably not reach the thirty-four goals he scored in his most prolific season last year (2009/10) and you can see below that his chances on goal were restricted.

However subsequently he is in a better position to create goals (as shown by the diagram below) and this has been highlighted by the fact that Rooney has already shipped in with fourteen assists this season. Of course playing Rooney deeper would not eradicate his goal influence entirely, this season Rooney has netted thirteen goals and created fourteen, in a season where his touch has been off, he’s been poor, he doesn’t look happy etc. etc. Imagine if he had a clean run of form all season how effective he could be “in the hole” playing behind Hernandez or Welbeck and with Berbatov waiting in the wings in case things are going so well.

Rooney is such a complete footballer you would feel comfortable with him playing almost anywhere and he would still be available to play as the out and out forward we know he can giving the likes of Cleverly a chance to shine in that midfield role. Now I know what you are thinking, United have won nothing yet and it’s easy to wax lyrical after a good performance, well yes you are right. However after a season where this current United side have received so much stick even from sections of our own support it is great to see them clicking together when it really matters is extremely sweet and for the man vilified by many to be at the heart of it, is just typical United.

By Nathan Thomas

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5 responses to “Rejuvenated Rooney is truly the complete footballer”

  1. The Gaffer says :

    Great post as usual Nathan!

    Agree with thoughts – about time we get behind Rooney and forget about what happened in the past. Look back, don’t stare. Especially when he’s playing this well!

    Saw a good stat which showed he has made three times as many assists as last season. As for goalscoring, although not as prolific (understandably), he is in the Top 10 in scoring charts.

    He’s really impressed in this deeper role; long may it continue.

  2. Timothy says :

    Yes, Rooney’s the complete footballer and your mother is Beyonce… Don’t make me laugh. He’s one of the most overrated players in the EPL

  3. fury12 says :

    Rooney is NOT the “complete footballer” and you sound like your in love with him. It takes 11 players to net a ball and 11 players to stop that ball from being netted.

    To The Gaffer “Look back, don’t stare”. Rooney is the one with the problem of staring and leering into a global window foul mouth and all.

    Chicarito is better in all respects than Rooney and he has youth and vitality…Rooney has neither!

    • The Gaffer says :

      To be honest, I don’t see your point. Since when has the term ‘complete footballer’ meant one man team?

      Chicharito has been excellent but it’s too much to say he’s better in every sense – and you thought my (let me admit it) touch hyperbolic title was an exaggeration!

      To add, I think you’ve wrongly understood the meaning of ‘look back, don’t stare’ – it means not dwelling on the past. Since when has Rooney, for all the wrong he might have done, done so?

  4. timbo says :

    I came in on this late, but I’ll comment anyway.

    The whole article is utterly ridiculous. Rooney certainly had one of his better games for United this season, but that isn’t saying much. It was basically a pretty innocuous effort, and hardly one to warrant the effusive praise heaped on him in this piece.

    I happened to take notes on Rooney’s performance during the game in question as I was trying to prove a point to someone about his play. Consequently I noted down every touch and its consequences, and the fact is that other than a handful of breaks and decent passes, Rooney’s performance was as tame as could be, with the decent moves countered by his usual litany of misplaced passes (one or two of which put United’s defense under pressure) and being dispossessed in one on one situations.

    As for Chelsea not being able to get near him, nothing could be more misleading. The guy was not some jack-in-the-box flitting about like greased lightning, effortlessly staying out of their reach. He was playing very deep more often than not, and was so far removed from Chelsea players when receiving tame passes that it’s little wonder they couldn’t ‘get near him’. Even further, with all the time in the world to actually do something constructive with the ball, United’s ‘most dangerous player’ spent most of the game taking easy balls and either passing them backwards or indulging in booming crosses to the other side of the field. Of course, as is usual with Rooney, one or two of his crossfield passes went to no one. So again, numbers are misleading, especially for a guy indulging in innocuous low risk passes for most of the game that should have resulted in his pass percentage being considerably higher.

    Numbers also don’t factor into other aspects of his game. Ever take note of how often Rooney tussles with someone for the ball at a throw-in or a lobbed ball and comes away empty-handed? It’s not just his stature – he has poor positional sense and timing in such situations.

    As for the vaunted defense mentioned, and which Rooney is always associated with, he contributed next to nothing during the match, and in fact was often seen plodding around or walking near midfield when the ball was making it’s way into United’s area. Berbatov gets slagged constantly for this apparently lackadaisical attitude (which itself is not true. He frequently turns up at the back for United when the team most needs him) Rooney walks around in ‘Berbatov manner’ and no one apparently notices.

    And talking of comparisons with Berbatov, the Bulgarian is often cited for slowing up play due to his lack of speed and for a perceived inclination to hold up play. Bullshit. He’s demonstrated time and again that he has more than enough speed to take his place at the focal point of one of United’s characteristic counter attacks. As for holding up the play, that’s again misleading. The man uses his high footballing intelligence to execute the most appropriate action at any given moment, and if that means backing away and holding on to the ball (often against two or three defenders trying unsuccessfully to dispossess him) because options have dried up he will do so. That’s the smart thing to do, to regroup and try again while retaining possession. Rooney on the other hand has no patience at all and will simply blast away when the options disappear or try and pull off a ridiculous low percentage pass that hands the ball back to the defense. In fact Rooney is by far the worst of United’s players, even more so than Nani, for breaking down attacks through poor decision making that results in the opposition being handed the ball. As for his supposed speed, note how easily he was run down yesterday when he made a clean break on a counter-attack and didn’t even manage to hold on to the ball.

    The fact of the matter is that the partnership which should have been allowed to flourish is the Berbatov-Hernandez axis, which showed so much promise early in the season. Berbatov is the perfect foil for the young Mexican, because he has the intelligence, the skill, and the touch to release him through the back four. Unfortunately Fergie has been so blindly loyal to Rooney, even in the midst of a season when he’s played like absolute shit, that he continues to treat the Bulgarian appallingly at a time when he was clearly the form forward not only at United, but in the EPL. The fact of the matter is that United would have had the EPL in the bag by now had United not kept playing Rooney time after time for next to no result while ungraciously and illogically shunting Berbatov to the sidelines.

    In a nutshell, Rooney is no Scholes in waiting, nor is he even the Rooney of current myth. The guy is without doubt the most over-rated, over-hyped player of recent generations. His touch is awful, he has no vision, no football smarts, and his shot-making ability is so wayward that one never knows where the hell the ball is going to end up, unless it’s delivered for him on a plate for an easy header or tap in. Any further back and he’s likely to unleash of his signature blasts into the stratosphere.

    As for Berbatov, I sincerely hope that United sell him on at the end of the season, because in forty years of watching football I have never seen a footballer of such incredible talent so misunderstood and so shabbily treated, both by his manager and the fan base. He needs to go to a European club where his gifts can be truly appreciated.

    Finally, I would suggest that the author, and anyone else who wants to stand by Rooney, take a tape of the game against Chelsea and dissect Rooney’s performance minute by minute, focusing entirely on his contributions and movement. Do this game after game and you may find yourself asking what all the fuss is about, why his many apparent flaws are so readily and frequently overlooked, and why Berbatov, by comparison, gets shafted by one and all when compared to the Rooney of sheer fantasy.

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