It’s that time of year again. Cesc? Thiago? Herrera? Hummels? No. It’s time to commence with the, what seems to be, annual debate on Wayne Rooney.
We’re all sick and tired of talking about Mr. Rooney and what to do with him, yet we never seem to come to any real conclusion. Stick up top! Play him behind the striker! Just find somewhere to get him in the team!
As we know, Rooney has been given a new 5-year contract, reportedly worth around £300,000 per week. Manchester United now has the control. We don’t need to worry about transfer requests and an unhappy Wayne, after all the club now has the upper hand, if you can have the upper hand while handing over £300,000 per week…
So…what to do with Roo?
Play Him Up Top
Wayne Rooney is on course to break Sir Bobby Charlton’s long-standing goal scoring record of 249 goals. He’s scored 216 goals for the club in 442 games since joining in 2004. He scores goals. Not only that, it’s his favourite position. All the ingredients are there for him play as a striker. But for one thing. Robin van Persie.
Since the rise of Barcelona, the rigid 4-4-2 system seems have gone out of fashion. Real Madrid, Champions League winners, only play Benzema as a recognized striker. Atletico Madrid – Diego Costa, Dortmund – Lewandowski, Munich – Mandzukic and the list goes on. Sure, we have the scouse combination of Suarez and Sturridge, but Sturridge recognised his standing behind Suarez and was happy to come of the left or right rather than insisting on playing as a centre forward.
Top teams play with one out and out forward and at Manchester United that position is filled by RVP. He is undoubtedly one of the world’s top strikers. Sure, he had a poor season by his standards, plagued by injury under David Moyes. Yet this summer under Louis van Gaal, he has been back to his best, and hopefully will continue to exhibit similar form next season under the same manager.
The infamous number 10 position. A few years ago, United fans claimed we didn’t have a ‘proper’ number 10. Arsenal, Chelsea, City seemed to be littered with top players behind the striker. Now, we have the luxury of plenty of players who can play this role. Mata, Januzaj, Kagawa and Rooney can all play this role, and play it well.
Wayne Rooney will be 29 in October, Juan Mata has just turned 26, while Adnan is only 19 years old. Januzaj is young and is willing to learn his trade on the wing, and with only Nani, Young and Valencia as competition, it’s safe to say he will be playing out wide for the foreseeable future. Mata, however, is not a winger, he wasn’t at Chelsea, and he won’t be here, at least he won’t last under Van Gaal very long if he is deployed there. Mata is a “number 10”.Shinji Kagawa is Manchester United’s forgotten man. Like Mata, this is his best position. My personal opinion is that Mata has a touch more quality than Shinji in this role. Therefore it would be a straight choice between Mata and Rooney to see who occupies the position going into next season. Club record signing Juan Mata, or record breaking Rooney? But surely we can fit Mata, Rooney and RVP in the same team?
Rooney on the Wing?
No. He’s not as quick as he once was, and I see a lot of sense in what Paul Scholes was talking about, when discussing if Rooney has passed his peak. Physically, I think he has. I am not sport scientist or expert, but wingers, especially in van Gaals teams, tend to be quick. Is this why Valencia recently signed a new deal with the club?
Wayne Rooney is not a winger. Sure, Sir Alex used to deploy him there, but it was usually in the big games, in Champions League finals or away at the Bernabeau. He was put there to play a more defensive role to sure up the weaker side of the United defence. Evidence from this World Cup suggests his ability to play that role has also diminished.
Central Midfield or Sell Him
Wayne Rooney is earning too much money to be sitting on the bench. Louis van Gaal has to find a place for him, or sell him. The three previous suggestions all have considerable drawbacks. I would not like to see Wayne Rooney starting in any of the three positions previously discussed. He will do a job in those positions, he will even perform at a world class level on his day. But maybe now is the time for Wayne to swallow his pride and try his hand in the centre of midfield. Wayne Rooney can pass the ball. Long or short there is a hint of Paul Scholes in regards to his passing ability. Unlike Scholesy, he can tackle as well. He is strong and also has a clear eye for goal.
Wayne Rooney is made to play in central midfield. He has played there before, most notably away at Stoke in a vital win which set us on our way to winning title number 20. He didn’t only play there. He won Man of the Match. At times last season we saw Carrick-Fletcher, Carrick-Cleverley, Carrick-Giggs etc. That wouldn’t fill my University team with fear, so why would it strike fear into Premier League opposition.
Van Gaal has a clear role for his “Number 6”, Transition from Defense to Attack. Carrick, Fletcher and Cleverley are coming to the end of their United careers. Pogba, Strootman Ander Herrera have all been linked to come in and fill this void in central midfield. Since Roy Keane we have had to deal with players like Kleberson, Anderson and Cleverly. With Herrera coming in (supposedly), it looks like our days of central midfield mediocrity may just be over.
Wayne Rooney didn’t want to play in central midfield under Ferguson, and asked for a transfer (allegedly). Moyes came in, and did everything he could to make Wayne happy and tried to form a Rooney-RVP partnership that unfortunately just didn’t work. There were no signs that it would work when they did play together. In my opinion, Rooney is still world class. However maybe it is time for him to swallow some pride and transition into a position best suited to his current attributes. If not, I would happily bid farewell to my one time favourite player.