Those who know me will be able to confirm that my feelings on Wayne Rooney over the past 4 years or so have been consistent. Not based solely on the scandalous events of 2010 when he brought the great Sir Alex Ferguson to the cusp of tears, embarrassing him into doing what he had never done for any other player during his reign and begging him publicly to stay, during the fiasco that was transfer request number 1. No, despite how much disdain I have for him for that, my views on Mr. Rooney were in the main placed in the belief that he has simply never been good enough. I just simply never bought into the hype. Despite what his record may suggest Wayne has never been able to score the goals that made a difference to United. Look at the years in which he was United’s leading goal scorer, in 2009-10 and 2011-12, United finished second. Rooney has always been a contributor but he never has been the player the club could depend on to take them to where they wanted to be… the best.
Contrary to popular opinion, Wayne Rooney has never been that guy. Although Rooney may be a goal every second game scorer in the league throughout his career, he hasn’t achieved that statistic in any single one of the seasons in which he has played outside of the two years mentioned. To put this into context, out of the 11 full seasons he has had at United, in 9 of them he hasn’t managed to achieve a goal every two games; the bare minimum for a main striker at a club the size of United.
I never believed Rooney could be our star striker, the man to lead us to glory, and thus my expectations of him this season are not the same as the vast majority of United fans. For nine months of the 2014-15 season I had to read through thousands and thousands of moronic tweets calling for Louis van Gaal to play Wayne Rooney up top as the central striker (number 9), but only three games into the new season, when these people are faced with a whole season of what they themselves begged for, they are now singing from a different hymn sheet. ‘Wayne Rooney’s touch is this’, ‘Wayne Rooney’s pace is that’… as if it is suddenly a revelation that Rooney cannot control the ball or make decisive runs through a defensive line on a regular and consistent basis!
For the first time in a long time I find myself defending Wayne Rooney, not because I think he is good enough to fulfil the role which he has been tasked with, but because he can’t. I feel sorry for a guy that I don’t particularly like because those that championed him no longer do. His most ardent supporters have turned their backs on him because he cannot fulfil the fruitful fantasies of the most wild of imaginations. That is not Rooney’s fault, it is theirs. It’s akin to someone marrying a glamour model and then finding out that she cannot cook a meal or do the laundry… it isn’t her fault, it is the fault of the moron who thought she would be capable of doing such tasks.
Wayne Rooney will score goals for Manchester United this season from whatever position he plays on the field, but he never was going to be the guy to score 25 goals and lead United to the title doing so… but the people who thought sacking off Robin van Persie last season because Rooney should be the first choice striker was a great idea are now starting to panic. They are starting to panic because they got exactly what they wanted, it just so happens that what they wanted was completely idiotic. Rooney has admitted himself that his performance in the game versus Aston Villa was sub-standard. Though he quite hilariously stated that he has only had one bad game recently, this should in theory also be the view of those who asserted his imperious qualities as a striker last season. Instead, these same supporters tore him to shreds. The reality is, that since the Villa game, Rooney has steadily improved with performances against Brugge and Newcastle United, which included a delightful flick to almost assist Memphis for a hat-trick and a very wrongly disallowed winner respectively. The very nature of our fickle fan base’s support is if Memphis scores that goal, and if the referee doesn’t incorrectly disallow his own great finish, I wouldn’t be writing and you wouldn’t be reading this article.
But fan overreaction is not a new phenomenon when it comes to the Old Trafford faithful. Only a few months ago when we were sweeping the likes of Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester City aside, Juan Mata as a right, inside winger was a genius concept by van Gaal. The fans were crying out for more of it… a few months later after ONE DRAW everyone thinks Mata is too slow and should be playing number 10… strange given that those calling for Mata to be the number 10 are also the same people every match day screaming to anyone who will listen that Ander Herrera should be playing there (too? Instead? God knows).
United won their first three games this season, starting Michael Carrick, with Bastian Schweinsteiger coming off the bench; United taking the lead in each of those games whilst Carrick was on the field. ‘Carrick is finished’, ‘Carrick is old’, ‘this is Carrick’s last season’ were the cries amongst United fans on social media. Everyone wanted Schweinsteiger to start… and against Newcastle United he did… and when did United look most like scoring? When Schweinsteiger came off and Carrick came on.
The thing that Wayne Rooney is now facing is a backlash of something he didn’t even create. Every fan thinks they know best, but seldom do they really think about what they are thinking. There is a reason van Gaal doesn’t pick Herrera, there is a reason why (and now people are beginning to see it) van Gaal picks Daley Blind in defence, and there is a reason why Wayne Rooney was not playing as a number 9 last season. Granted, van Gaal has made a bit of a rod for his own back by naming Wayne Rooney as captain, rendering him, according to his own philosophy, nigh on undroppable; but which one of the thousands calling for Rooney to be axed from striking duties now were against this appointment a year ago?
The philosophy is, if the captain is fit, the captain plays. So if the captain is useless up front, and the club has an embarrassment of riches in midfield… where do you play him? The trouble is, the loudest of fans very rarely have coherent answers to these questions, and that is why the wise thing to do, is to sit back, have faith in the manager and the club, and not to throw the baby out with the bath water whenever ONE result doesn’t come as expected.
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