Monday, 27 July 2009

The Burning Question of Wayne's World

There is no doubt in anyone's mind, United fan or other, that Wayne Rooney is a world class footballer.

He is also, however, not a world class central striker

The bang of the press' drum always seems to kick to the beat of "why is Wayne not playing through the centre?" For me? It is crystal clear.

Our nicknamed dubbed White Pele is without question the most talented Englishman in living memory. A physique of a human pit-bull. The guile and precision of a cultured Brazilian. And the power of rocket fuelled driven legs. Its fair to say the boy wonder has it all, and in abundance.

But he does not.

Like all English football fans i have followed the Merseysider's career incredibly close since he was 16 years old. There was no doubt, even back then, that we were witnessing something and someone special. From the moment he smashed his first goal in for Everton against a stunned Arsenal, too his one man show for England at the Euros (before injury cut him and the nation's chances down) to when he slipped on a United jersey for the first time, to score probably the greatest debut performance hat trick ever witnessed. Yes. This boy has the X Factor!

But there is one side of Wayne which still lacks. He is not the "real deal" in the central striker's position. Without boring the world with goal stats and the like, Rooney's first touch with his back to goal is still only average at best. Go on! You watch him!! He craves space, so he can weave his magic, hence why he drops for the ball so consistently...and with that there is nothing wrong! His demeanour dictates that he wants to be involved. But as the central striker, life can be lonely at times. The game plan is not for this player to drop deep for the ball. Because when we break we need this position in...erm....POSITION!!! It is not Wayne's best placing in a team. Maybe for England, whose strikers are not fit to lace Roo's boots. But not as far as United are concerned.

And yet the cries from all and sundry are the same. "Why is Rooney not playing as the central striker every week?" It is a crap statement. Rooney's effectiveness "in the hole" is undoubted. On his day, he is the best in the world in this role. Able to be free. Play where he decides. Hunt down the ball. And then turn to either drive at the opposition or slide in the perfect ball for.....the central striker. He is also a marvel on the left. He will work with his full back to both defend, and attack at pace. Never shirking a tackle. Always the willing labourer. His contribution on the left was sorely overlooked at the end of last season, despite United winning a third league title and destroying Arsenal in their own backyard, with the man playing wide. Yes, it went wrong in Rome. But in the cold light of day, lots of things went wrong in Rome.

So, i am pretty bored with hearing this argument, because there is little proof in the pudding. (Did anyone witness his second half display in the pre season game in China? He played up top central, but could not help himself into dropping deeper or wider. This is not what we need from this position!) Maybe one day, our number 10 will mature into the best striker in the world. But i doubt it. It is like saying that the only way Cristiano Ronaldo could score goals is if he plays up front. And we all know that the vast majority of his 70 odd goals in the last two years did not come from there, but from a more free role, and wider. This is where i see Rooney best used for United. Either dropping off the front in a 4-4-2 or playing wide left in a 4-3-3. He is not a fox in the box like Michael Owen, and it would be a waste of such a talent expecting him to become this.

So my plea is simple:
Let Wayne be the player he is destined to become...not one which we wish him to be. He will still be a hero. Still attain the status of a legend. But i would rather take the shackles of the strikers role away from the boy for good. Then i can stop this year after year holding-my-head-in-my hands in Tier 3, when he inadequate works the role with a poor first touch or by missing yet another one on one with the keeper. He was born to smash the ball in from 20 yards...not 5. He can still be a United attacker, if not the most advanced one on the pitch.


  1. Agreed. Rooney looked great out on the left last year and all that running seemed to keep his powder a bit dryer too. With CR gone, however, there is no question that United will move back toward a 442 and we will see more of the crosses we were all so used to before his arrival. We are already starting to see it in the pre-season with Tosic showing some of his purpose.

    But this return to an old and familiar formation certainly pushes Rooney back toward the middle. Assuming he plays the second striker position how do you see the front of United's offence this year? Berba isn't really the last touch either, or is he? Last year I'm not totally sure what role he played but he sure didn't look like that 20+ goal a season point of the spear. He plays more as a hold up man and provider than a finisher although I do remember him having a greater goal tally a couple of years ago. Is he capable of giving us the goals in the final ten yards ala RVN? No one can be foolish enough to rely on Owens health or the maturity of Welbeck and Macheda to consistently fill this role and I can't really think of a striker who even might be available I would want United to buy right now (Agbonlahor is all I can come up with and hes no Benzema...gutted!). So, how do they line up? Either Berba has to become something I don't think any of us believe he can, Owen needs to defy all historical logic and stay fit and on form, the kids need to play way beyond their years or.... Rooney plays that 1st forward position, good fit or not.

    On a related subject, as his head and his passing matures does he eventually develop into the attacking mid role of Scholes? He's already a better tackler!

  2. Ian..i dont see roo as a midfielder per say, not even in the future. He is the sort of character that will always need to be involved primarily in attack. The point is i just dont see him as the player furthest up the park.

    Its difficult with Berba. All the potential to score goals but there is always a BUT! He is no RVN. Despite what you say, i think Owen will be top scorer this season, and i think he will play quite alot. Hes not been bought for the Carling cup. Hes looked excellent in pre season and i think he and berba will be rotated to play with roo generally. I wish we'd buy Huntelaar just to give us another striking option, but i think hes gonna stick with Kiko and Wellbeck this never win anything with kids...

  3. I guess this season is less about expectation and more about potential and hope, then. Lets hope Fergie can make Hansen eat his words again.... tho none of those "kids" back then were strikers, were they?