“I am very excited. I think we have got the best young player this country has seen in the past 30 years.” -Sir Alex Ferguson, August 2004.
Some call him the complete footballer. That no aspect of his game can be faulted. You could stick him at right back and he would still put in a shift to his maximum capabilities. A team player. With Wayne Rooney, even at the adolescent age of just 18 years old you could tell this young boy had something special. Nine years, 400+ appearances, 197 goals, five Barclays Premier League titles, two PFA Young Player of the Year, one PFA Player of the Year and a UEFA Champions League later Wayne Rooney is at an impasse in his career. After making his views clear that he wants to leave Manchester United after nine seasons at the club the question stands, where now? With speculated offers from fellow English clubs Arsenal and Chelsea F.C it does not appear he would have a huge amount of difficulty in finding a new club. José Mourinho expressing particular admiration for the 27 year old. Many questions arise from his new-found situation such as, what position will he play? Is he getting on in his career? Is he worth £30+ million? Is it too much money to pay for a 27 year old?
After an offbeat season where he had to share the limelight with newly purchased Dutch maestro Robin Van Persie, something he had not been used to since the days Cristiano
Ronaldo grazed the turf of Old Trafford, Rooney had to be content to sit back and endure a season of frustration that he had not been accustomed to in previous years. A season that left a bad taste in the mouth of both the player and United fans alike. A positional change also followed suit, seeing Van Persie as the central striker, the targetman up front, Rooney now had to be satisfied with a deeper more central, playmaker role in the season that followed. A position that the player himself expressed publicly his disapproval for. However Wayne Rooney being Wayne Rooney fulfilled the role superbly securing ten assists and scoring twelve goals last season.
Although 12 Premier League goals is a stumbling block for some. This is the same player that scored 26 in the 2009/10 season and even more recently 27 goals only last (2011/12) season. It can be seen clearly that it is no longer the same Wayne Rooney that can achieve 25+ goals per season that is playing for Manchester United anymore. This can of course can be put to the securement of Robin Van Persie. Manchester United no longer have the pivotal dependency on Rooney to get the masses of goals for them anymore. That does seem however quite disrespectful of the man that had been at the heart of countless titles for Ferguson’s side. To replace your loyal talisman through no fault of his own, with a bitter rivals in Van Persie? That does not rest well with me nor do I think it rests well with Wayne Rooney.
Yet this is not his first indication of his desire to leave Manchester. Cast your minds back to October 2010. Rooney had been on a poor run of performances and to add to it an equally poor campaign in the FIFA World Cup the previous summer. Word broke of disagreements with manager Alex Ferguson. A few days past until out of seemingly nothing, like a bombshell, Wayne submits a transfer request. It had not been anticipated. Strong links to Spain suggested that he was moving to Real Madrid for £50 million -a fee Madrid appeared to be willing to agree to. Wayne, however on a poor stretch of games, had just come off his best ever season in a Manchester United shirt scoring 34 goals and receiving the PFA award for the best player in the Barclays Premier League as well as being included in the FIFPro World XI. Some might argue that at that stage he was the pinocal of his career, when he was at the peak of his powers. Not many eyebrows raised at the thought of shelling out £50 million for his services. Some might have claimed that £70 million was a more accurate representation of his abilities.
That was almost two and a half years ago. What has changed since then? A lot. Wayne is two years older. His value has dropped significantly. £20 million – £30 million of a significance. Again questions must be asked. Is he no longer the same player that Florentino Perez was desperate to sign? Is he longer the most feared striker in the Premier League? Did he fulfill his complete potential as a player?
I personally have come to notice two Wayne Rooneys. The first being his formidable, ruthless, aggressive self that would terrorise defences to breaking point, scoring goals for fun and playing with a true passion and burning desire for his side. This Wayne Rooney was arguably him at his best. However not all good came from this Wayne. Constant outbursts, stamps, red cards, and aggressive behavior on the pitch tarnished his reputation for many. However his footballing abilities on the pitch could never be questioned. The second Wayne Rooney is the one we see now. A more mature player, still with the same fire in his belly, however not as ruthless as previous. More assists and less goals pave the way as his role as the prevailing, essential asset of his Manchester United team slips further away. However still the same incredible footballer.
One particular difference in the two that I have come to apprehend especially in the 2012/13 season is Wayne’s ability to read the game. Something I feel he is not given enough credit for. His countless key passes and vision and ability to perceive situations on the pitch appear to be just a split second faster than his opponents. His passing intelligence has also thrived immensely. One moment that epitomises all of this for me would be Robin Van Persie’s second goal against Aston Villa, the game that would win the title for Manchester United. A Robin Van Perise goal? Yes. Look at it again. Look at Wayne Rooney. Look at his positioning, he is in his own half. Finally look at his pass. Look at that pass.
There is no arguing that Wayne Rooney is an incredible footballer. Is he as good as the Messi’s and Ronaldo’s, no. But he is the best Wayne Rooney that he can be. A player is only as good as his abilities allow him to be. The question still hangs in the balance of whether or not he will be a Manchester United player come next season and it is my sentiment that he still has a major role to play if David Moyes’ side are to retain their title.
“We all know football players at the top level are blessed with high wages – it’s no secret. But Rooney would play for 100 euros-a-week. You can see the fire in his eyes. It’s that fire that makes him the best of the best.” -Lionel Messi