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No Rooney at the Inn The man by numbers
Wayne Rooney is perhaps the most famous English footballer still plying his trade in the Premier League today, and no one can doubt the legacy of Manchester United and England’s number 10. The Liverpool-born striker stands alone as the English national side’s leading marksman, with 51 goals to date, surpassing the iconic Bobby Charlton in the process. And for his club side, he stands only five goals behind the same player in the list of all-time scorers for the Red Devils, for whom he had made over 500 appearances and scored 254 goals. Indeed, his 177 goals for United represent the most scored by a player for a single Premier league club (surpassing Thierry Henry), and his total of 192 can only be bettered by Alan Shearer. Rooney, who has five Premier League titles to his name, along with a Champions League and two League Cups, was voted double-footballer of the year in 2009/10, and was also given the nod as the scorer of the Premier League’s greatest goal (his legendary bicycle-kick against derby rivals Manchester City). And at age 30, young Wayne should have many more miles left in the tank. But that could be where the good news ends.
Amongst most frank observers, Rooney the player has been in decline over the last two or three seasons, with his goal output being reduced to reflect the below-par performances that may or may not be the result of a career that started at such a tender young age, an accumulation of injuries, being asked to played at times in midfield (not his natural position), and the general malaise surrounding United since the retirement of the great Sir Alex Ferguson. At times Rooney’s touch seems to have deserted him, and he rarely if at all seems capable of the explosive moments of magic which have marked his career for Everton, United and England. At 30 years of age, Rooney should be enjoying the prime of his career – indeed Cristiano Ronaldo is a year older than his ex-teammate – and the records that he has already shattered should be at risk of being set at almost unattainable heights for future generations. Yet, unfortunately for the Croxteth kid, the reality seems rather different.
It would be disingenuous to blame United’s decline under first David Moyes and then Louis Van Gaal on the stocky striker. Indeed, at times Rooney’s goalscoring has carried his team’s results, and often the skipper has been asked to help out a midfield which could easily be pinpointed as the most lacklustre part of the side since the retirement of such luminaries as Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes. Yet to more seasoned observers of the Old Trafford giants, Rooney’s inability to move the ball quickly, often as a result of a sluggish first touch, and the general decline of his once explosive pace, has been somewhat the catalyst for United’s lethargic play. And here lies in the crux. Since being ruled out in February with a knee injury that should see United’s captain return in April, Van Gaal seems to have stumbled across an attacking gem in the form of Marcus Rashford, an 18 year-old who has been nothing short of a revelation since scoring twice on his debut against FC Midtjylland . Similarly, summer-signing Anthony Martial has been a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season to date, and accompanied by the likes of Jesse Lingard, United’s attach contains more pace than it has for some time, especially with their lethargic skipper currently crocked.
It is not just at club level where Rooney’s place is under threat. Despite England boss Roy Hodgson swearing blindly that his skipper will be the first name on the team sheet come the start of Euro 2016 in France, it is difficult to argue in favour of Rooney’s inclusion ahead of the likes of Harry Kane, the Premier League’s leading scoring with 21 goals to date, and 19-goal revelation Jamie Vardy, who again offers considerably more pace and energy than England’s leading scorer. With the likes of Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge also in contention for the England frontline, an anything but 100% fit and free-scoring Wayne Rooney is difficult to justify in any strongest England line-up, especially as he has so often flattered to deceive for the Three Lions in tournaments past.
It seems inconceivable that a player of Rooney’s standing for Manchester United and England, two sides he captains no less, should need to be justified at this juncture in his career, but that is exactly where we stand. There is never a good time to get injured in football, but with young pretenders threatening to dethrone the king at both club and international level, Rooney needs to be firing on all cylinders before too long. This could be a make-or-break few months for English football’s last remaining Galactico.
By: Steve Paget