Someone needs to sit down and have a strong, serious talk with Wayne Rooney. Where once was a rampaging striker, scoring goals for fun and rated in the top ten of the world’s best footballers, now exists a slightly overweight, off form pale imitation of his former self.
And the question that needs to be put to him is just what exactly happened? How did he go from a 26 goals a season man, to a pretty tame, average striker?
How does a footballer earning £300k a week somehow not be able to maintain a level of fitness good enough for the Premier League?
I’m also not just talking about the first two league games of the season against Spurs and Aston Villa, where Rooney’s only notable contribution in both games was to be involved, inadvertently, in the only goal in the win over Spurs. Even then, that was somewhat embarrassing.
A decent United move ended with Ashley Young’s accurate cross finding an unmarked Rooney in the Spurs six yard box.
A nailed on goal, one would have thought, but Rooney hesitated and fumbled the ball slightly, leaving time for Spurs defender Kyle Walker to put the
ball into his own net in his attempts to clear. Rooney at least had the decency to blush.
However, at least Rooney was in the oppositions’s area. In the Villa game, it took Rooney until the 93rd minute to appear in that section with the ball, and then all he could do was to kick it into touch to prevent a goal kick. It was a truly atrocious performance.
However this malaise has not happened overnight. Rooney’s descent into mediocrity has been coming over the last three seasons. The stats show this with 41 league goals in that period, alongside 64 league goals in the previous three campaigns.
His overall play has deteriorated to the extent that his first touch is so clumsy, it forces him into a rushed pass or shot. That’s when he has a shot – his shots on target ratio is just under two a game.
And yet, Rooney’s name on the team sheet is never in doubt.
Previous managers Alex Ferguson and David Moyes always picked him, and present boss Louis van Gaal shows no inclination to change that pattern.
Wayne Rooney is Manchester United’s third highest goalscorer of all time (in all competitions) behind club legends Bobby Charlton and Denis Law. So of course he has earned his stature as one of Old Trafford’s favourite sons.
But for how much longer can the Red Devil faithful wait for him to recapture his golden days? He is only 29, still young enough to turn it around.
Maybe the weight of captaincy is slowing him down. I never thought that he was a suitable candidate for that position. His combustible, easily irritated demeanour is food and drink to opposition hard-men and he is more likely to chastise a colleague for a misplaced pass, than offer an encouraging, supportive comment.
Rooney is in the United team to score goals and if he continue’s to misfire, replacements must be used. As United enter into a crucial Champions League qualifying tie with Club Brugge from Belgium, more pressure than ever will be put on Rooney’s shoulders.
Unless the club bring in a striker before the transfer window closes, waiting in the wings are Javier Hernandez and James Wilson.
Both, I feel, are more than capable of scoring goals for United. Even new signing Memphis Depay can fill the role.
Manager van Gaal has an obligation to United’s legion of fans to pick the best players available. At the moment he is not doing that.