Simply that he is still a United player.
At the point of taking the reigns, it seemed that Rooney was as good as gone after becoming disillusioned by life at OT having played second fiddle to Robin van Persie all last year.
There is no doubt that that was a role placed upon him because Robin van Persie was the one man who could lead United and Sir Alex to title number twenty. He is not as good a striker as RVP is and found his place in the team adjusted accordingly.
Sir Alex was quite prepared to see Rooney leave the club and, had he remained in charge this season, there is no doubt that he would not have been donning the red of Manchester United this campaign.
Had that been the case, I am in no doubt that the club would have survived, as Sir Alex proved time and time again that no player is bigger than the football club.
What a difference a year makes.
Undoubtedly, Moyes did exceptionally well to keep Wayne Rooney at the club. But at what cost?
He has been one of the few players that have done reasonably well this campaign. But all this season has proved is that Sir Alex was absolutely spot on with the pecking order he created at the club. With RVP pushed to the background and seemingly unhappy, Rooney has taken the mantle and United sit seventh in the league.
Now of course the squad is nowhere near strong enough to win the title so I’m not going to say Wayne has failed us because we aren’t top of the league. But we certainly aren’t bad enough, on paper, to be sitting where we are.
The importance surrounding Wayne Rooney, an importance created solely by David Moyes, has gone to the player’s head and, if I were sitting in the dressing room, I know I wouldn’t be happy. This is a player that questioned the club’s ambition, embarrassed Sir Alex Ferguson and behaved like a spoilt child.
Granted, Sir Alex rewarded Rooney with a new contract and a pay rise, but their relationship was never the same and his role in the team changed. It was said that you never cross Sir Alex and get away with it and, although Rooney stayed, Sir Alex most certainly knocked him down a peg or two.
Now I fear that Moyes has created a monster he can’t control. I will not for a second question the player’s ability, he is a fantastic footballer and we are ten times stronger for having him on our books, but my goodness he knows it.
The problem became obvious after the arrival of Juan Mata. He is a world class number ten, he needs to play in behind the striker. However, Rooney appears to have decided that that is where he needs and wants to play. The problem with that is that Juan Mata is a better player in that position.
It’s no surprise to me at all that since RVP’s injury, Juan Mata and Shinji Kagawa have thrived. They are now getting to play as part of the three behind the centre forward and are doing it majestically. It’s truly been a joy to watch both of them playing with flair and skill together in recent weeks.
It’s a major dilemma for Moyes. How do you field a team that includes Rooney, RVP and Mata effectively? It always seems to be that one or two of the players from that three suffer when all are selected. Rooney never appears to be the one that suffers.
His desire to chase the ball all over the park is admirable, but it’s not beneficial. For a 4-2-3-1 formation to work, the three behind the striker have to be fluid, they have to be prepared to interchange and work together. Rooney, in his attempts to play for the team, is actually being more of a hindrance.
One possible solution is to play him as a centre forward. His understanding of that position has really improved thanks to Sir Alex and, when played there, he is extremely effective. Otherwise, I’m not sure how any of the other attacking players can get a look in.
I think back to Robin van Persie’s interview following the first leg against Olympiacos where he stated that players were playing where he wanted to play and this is exactly what I’m getting at. For a team to work efficiently, everyone must have their role and must stick to it. I’ll say it again, I love Wayne Rooney’s hunger to have the ball, but he has to learn to trust his team mates and confine himself to attacking quarters only.
If Rooney is happy to adapt to the fluid number ten role where he interchanges with his two team-mates, (like the example set by Hazard, Oscar and Willian at Chelsea) then we really will be quite an attacking prospect because I think he would be fantastic at doing it.
Should Wayne Rooney be serious about being a number ten then he needs to learn how to play that position properly. The signing of Mata was an indication from Moyes of how he sees the club progressing and so Rooney must also now adapt (or be adapted by Moyes) and we will reap the rewards.
There also needs to be a serious increase in David Moyes’ bravery when it comes to making in play decisions. Rooney was clearly not match fit last night and fluffed his lines on more than one occasion. Sir Alex would have had him off, no question. I worry that David Moyes is scared to rock the Rooney boat.
Every club needs an alpha male and that must be its manager. David Moyes is nowhere near being it at United and the sooner he toughens up and makes the correct decisions for the club’s sake and not Wayne Rooney’s, the better.