By Mark James
Recently, I suggested that we would see the emergence of a new Wayne Rooney over the coming weeks and months; a Wayne Rooney fit to fill the boots of Paul Scholes, no less. Now, with the ongoing form of our multifaceted frontline, it seems that this emergence will be less about evolution and more about an individual need to survive.
Sir Alex Ferguson has always spoken of the immense value in having 4 top draw strikers at his disposal. The heroics of our treble winning side of 1999 has always gone a long way to adding weight to the argument, whilst last season’s final day heartache was compounded by losing the league title on the irritating digits assigned by goal difference. In fact, it was this failure to overhaul Manchester City’s impressive goal tally which no doubt gave extra impetuous to the hunt for Robin Van Persie’s highly sought after signature.
The 2012/13 season has already begun with a flurry of goals from United’s vast attacking options, with the most impressive strike-rates being notched by Javier Hernandez and the aforementioned Dutch striker. However, despite the tally of goals being shared amongst 16 members of the squad, with an excellent return of 29 successful strikes in just 11 league games, Wayne Rooney has only managed to hit the back of the net twice in this seasons’ Premier league outings .
Of course, this is not to say that his impact hasn’t been as talismanic as usual. His movement, ball winning aggression and sheer desire to play would make him suitable to almost any position on the park. Sir Alex Ferguson has already utilised this versatility on many occasions, as England’s number 9 continues to become the John O’Shea of the attacking line, albeit with substantially greater striking ability (a legendary effort against West Ham in the 2012 Carling Cup immediately springs to mind – Sorry, John. But then, did Wayne Rooney ever nutmeg Luis Figo? I think not).
Clearly, Wazza is more than happy to play anywhere and certainly isn’t about to suggest that he is being underutilised when not positioned as part of a front two. But, are the stars beginning to align to ensure that in the near future, he will only be doing so out of necessity?A number of pundits have caught onto Alex Ferguson’s praise of his two 9.5s. Let’s face it, there clearly is a benefit of having a rotational pairing who are both able to drop off, play the perfect ball in behind, whilst also being capable of finding themselves on the end to put the ball home. However, the proof in the pudding is suggesting that Manchester United are far more deadly with an out and out number 9 and Chicharito is certainly giving Sir Alex Ferguson something to think about.
With 8 goals in his last 5 games (regardless of the dubious goals panel, I saw a hat-trick at Villa Park last Saturday), the well-rested Mexican sensation is showing the same eye for goal we saw in his impressive debut season at Old Trafford, whilst his manager has gone on record to suggest that his inclusion in the starting line-up for our weekend game at Carrow Road is a foregone conclusion. With Ole Gunnar Solkjaer’s Molde winning the Norwegian league for a second consecutive season (congratulations to an Olegend), one can’t help but be reminded of the manner in which the treble winning front line operated: a number 10 always complimenting a true number 9.
If the argument that Rooney isn’t required as an out-and-out attacking option isn’t enough to sway opinion, what about the fact that he clearly brings such great value to our midfield? Last months’ outing against Newcastle was the perfect case in point: While our much maligned midfield has seen stronger sides out-muscle and out hustle when it comes to midfield domination, Wayne Rooney was constantly on the go from box to box, stripping Alan Pardew’s team of its power, finesse and ability to find a front two capable of causing problems to any defensive pairing in the world. One could argue that the same offering against Everton and Tottenham would have produced substantially better results by the end of the 90 minutes.
Manchester United fans have been suggesting for a long time that we lack the vigorous determination and power of a United midfield which listed the dogged Roy Keane alongside the more graceful Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and David Beckham, and despite the game changing significantly in recent years, post match analysis continues to focus on the likes of Fellaini, Dembele or, more recently, Aston Villa’s Benteke having their way with our weaker players. Regardless of height, I have never seen Wayne Rooney easily pushed off the ball and likely never will.
There is no doubt that Manchester United have a wide range of young midfield talent at their disposal. However, Michael Carrick aside, Sir Alex Ferguson will likely take more time selecting his central midfield pairing than he would if Ferdinand and Vidic were both fit for defensive duties. Rather than hampering the career progression of Cleverley, Powell and Kagawa, Wayne Rooney could be the rock to solidify the growth of a new generation of midfield stars into the hearts of the United faithful.
In Wayne Rooney, Manchester United have a player of such talent that he is a conundrum. The fact that he is capable of notching up 30 plus goals in one season should give anyone pause for thought the moment he is not listed as an out-and-out attacking option. But, with the current squad, Wayne Rooney’s future midfield role seems written in the stars; or perhaps, written by the goal-scoring stars he is blessed to be playing alongside.
About the Author: Mark James attended his first Manchester United game in the mid 80s. He has been a regular visitor to Old Trafford for more than two decades and has developed a passion for sports writing since leaving University with an Honours Degree in Media Studies. As a dedicated writer, Mark has been published in UN sponsored business magazines on behalf of International Tourist Boards, dramatically boosted the online present of e-commerce companies around the world and continues to share his love of Manchester United with blogging communities across the internet. Available via a number of freelancer hire sites, Mark can be contacted through his leading online profile available here..