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Will Rooney’s Return Bring Good Returns?

A few weeks ago, it looked like Wayne Rooney might be out until December, just in time for the key matches against Arsenal and Chelsea.

However, according to Monday’s reports, Rooney could have a few matches under his belt by the time we face our title rivals, as his return from an ankle injury could happen this weekend when we host Wigan.

It could end up being determined that he’s not quite ready to make a starting return this weekend, or return at all, but the timing couldn’t be better, actually.

A return either this weekend or the following week, when we visit Rangers and host Blackburn, would be ideal, so that he can have a few matches, and perhaps a few goals as well, under his belt before we face Arsenal and Chelsea. In matches where we need to be our best, we need to have our best in the best condition, and if he’s both fit and in form, it bodes well for our hopes to come away with, at the very least, four points from those two matches.

It doesn’t hurt that the trio of league matches leading up to those two crucial ties is as perfectly placed as could be, both with him in mind and with our need to have as many points tucked away by the time Dec. 13 rolls around.

He’s had a lot of success against Wigan in his career, and this current Wigan side has surrendered 21 goals thus far this season. As if our dominance against Wigan since they made the step up to the top flight isn’t enough, we’re scoring at a fine clip at home (15 goals in six matches), and Wigan’s surrendered 21 goals thus far this season.

Then there’s Blackburn, against whom Rooney has scored in his last three appearances. Blackburn have been pretty friendly with the goals away from home, surrendering 12 in seven away matches to this point.

Rounding out the three-game league stretch prior to the Arsenal/Chelsea back-to-back is a visit to Blackpool, who’ve allowed as many as we’ve scored (26) this season and let in six against Arsenal, four against Chelsea and Tottenham, and three against City.

Everything favors him being able to hit the ground running when he returns, but is that what we’ll see?

Even a couple of goals in the next few weeks would be a better return than what we’ve received from him in his limited action this season, that goes without saying.

And an increased output from Rooney will only help our chances of being able to catch, pass, and stay ahead of Chelsea and the other title contenders.

Sure, we have had no problems scoring this season, for the most part. The statistics speak for themselves. 26 goals scored in 13 league matches, 11 different scorers (12, if you count Brede Hangeland), 11 games with at least two goals.

It is nice to be getting contributions from so many sources. It says a lot about our team and how, even without Rooney, isn’t struggling to find the back of the net. If one person isn’t scoring, then another one is. From Dimitar Berbatov, to Nani, to Javier Hernandez, to Fletcher, Park, Vidic, and on down to Macheda’s strike that kick-started our comeback against Villa, we’ve seen goals from the starters and subs, the likely and unlikely. Getting those kinds of varied contributions has saved our hide a number of times already, and it could well make all the difference come the end of the season.

But as welcome as that variety is, we need more consistent contributions up front from the guys that get paid to score goals. Berba hasn’t scored since his hat trick against Liverpool, and as fantastic a start as Javier Hernandez has had to his Manchester United career, it’s far too early to thrust him into a position where every goal is more out of need than an added bonus. Michael Owen is good for the regular goal when he’s fit, but that’s a big question mark, and Macheda is still not where we can throw him into a starting role and expect consistent production.

More than that, when your best player and most dangerous scoring threat is not only on the pitch but also playing well, it only serves to open up more opportunities for others.

In Rooney’s case, it’s not just a matter of the automatic attention that he’ll garner when he has the ball in a dangerous position, but it’s what he can do outside of firing a Howitzer past the keeper. He doesn’t have to notch double-digit assists like he was doing before last season’s goal explosion, but his ability to unselfishly make things happen for his teammates is something that can pay big, big dividends when it’s already apparent that said teammates can take chances when they come to them.

Last, and not least for some, is what he must do to prove that he is still fully behind the cause, that he is still 100% for Manchester United, that the passion and fire that made him so beloved burns redder than ever before.

It will take a lot more to win over some of those in the seats and watching from various locales, but it’s something he also needs to prove to his teammates, to his manager, to himself. For all that we might think about what footballers don’t think about or don’t know, I don’t think the above is lost on him. And from the effort that he’s made in his recovery, it looks like he’s trying to put the last few months behind him, get back out there as quickly as possible, and prove that he deserves his place in the starting XI, as one of the most feared players in the world, and in everyone’s good graces.

There will no doubt be some rust, but for my part, I look for him to return to the pitch in the kind of shape that he should be in, mentally and physically. Could it be that all of this drama could turn out to be the best thing that could have happened for his career and for United? Time will tell, but don’t be surprised if that’s the case.

Whatever your individual opinions of Rooney might be after all that has transpired, we are a much better and much more dangerous team if we have him firing on all cylinders, and with that in mind, it’s in our best interest to throw our support behind him, and hopefully he’ll return the favor.