As Manchester United fans, we consider Wayne Rooney to be a world class striker. We group him in with the Thierry Henry’s of the world. However, as a friend and Arsenal fan recently pointed out to me, Rooney’s statistics do not point to a player that is of world class quality. Instead, it shows a player who has shown flashes of world class potential, but just does not have the numbers to warrant such high praise. Rooney is very creative with the ball, but he is not an out and out striker like Henry. However, according to Sir Alex Ferguson, this will all change this year.
For the first time in 4 years, Rooney will have had an entire summer break to rest his body, and prepare for the new season. While only 21 years old, he has averaged at least 44 appearances over the last 5 years, with Champions League play, FA cup play, and tours to foreign countries, the wear and tear has to have some affect on a player, no matter what age. The numbers above don’t even include International duty, so as you can see, Rooney has probably needed this time off for a while. One would have to wonder how many more goals he would have scored this season if he had not rushed back to play for England in the 2006 World Cup, where he clearly was not match fit.
Secondly, if and when Carlos Tevez suits up for Man Utd, it will be Rooney who benefits the most. I believe that while Cristiano Ronaldo came into his own last season, part of his success came from the one on one defending he saw as teams were making sure they kept track of Rooney. With Tevez in the fold, and Ronaldo now a known threat, I think Rooney will see more opportunities to score goals, and he’ll finish many of these opportunities. I think we will have a situation similar to Chelsea’s last year with Shevchenko and Drogba. Shevchenko took defenders away, allowing Drogba more time on the ball, and more opportunities, which lead to more goals. The only difference is Tevez won’t be a bust the way Sheva has been so far.
Thirdly, Rooney is a great competitor on and off the pitch, we all know that. This is not based off of anything that has been said, but if you look at the stats from last year, Rooney and Ronaldo were pretty even. Ronaldo had a few more assists, but they both scored the same amount of goals, each player bagging 23. Yet it was Ronaldo who recieved the big awards and accolades, and was called the best player in the world by many people. I’m not saying Rooney was jealous or had a problem with that, because even he said that Ronaldo was playing at a level that was second to none last year. But that has to push the competitor that lives inside Rooney. If Ronaldo can do it, Rooney can too.
Finally, Rooney must step up and prove his critics wrong. There are those who question where he was during the loss at the San Siro against AC Milan, or during the FA Cup final against Chelsea. Having been given the # 10 shirt for the upcoming season and beyond, Rooney needs to become a veteran leader for the club. The old guard of Giggs, Scholes, and Neville will be leaving soon, and with new, young players coming in, they will look to players like Rooney for leadership. I think this will be the season where it all comes together for Wayne Rooney. He has the creative part down, now the goals will come as well. A 30+ goal season for Rooney, barring injury, seems to be on the horizon for the young striker. I think after this season, Rooney will finally be able to brought up in the discussion of world class strikers without any criticism. And that is good news for the Red Devils, and bad news for everyone else.
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