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Manchester United

No longer the White Pele. Just the Devil in Red.

Wayne Rooney. Liverpool born, but playing for Manchester United. The talisman for his country, but also one of the most hated. A man who will get banned for swearing into a camera, but also a man that organizations will be willing to go through all obstacles for to let him play just one game. Wayne Rooney is a Manchester United player, and all the things above make him that. Everyone have their own opinion of him, from being a money-chasing ego with the first touch of a elephant, to being a gift from the footballing Gods, rescuing his team at every opportunity given to him. Call him what you want, but with 160 goals for United, countless of them crucial, he has written his name into the history books of Manchester United. Calling him a legend may be taking it too far, but he is not far from reaching that summit either.

This is Wayne’s 8th season in a Manchester United shirt, which seem unbelievable. At the age of 26, it seems like he has been here forever, and he still looks like a young lad. He has had some great seasons since arriving at United in 2004, none more memorable than his 34-goal season in 2009/10. Despite starting this season in amazing form, scoring 9 goals in his first 5 games, Rooney had had to face heavy criticism. He has had trouble with injuries, and a spell in midfield has not helped him either. People talk about what position fits him the best, and which strike partner brings out his inner beast. Pundits seem to think Rooney has a future in midfield, but it is hard to see. Placing him there removes his biggest assets, which is his directness and determination. He is a good passer, but he is far from elegant enough to be a playmaker and ghost past oppositions. It just is not Wayne. He is not your ordinary striker either, as his main strengths rely outside, and on the edge of the box. It is hard to give him a position, as his strengths differ from any footballer you are going to see. He himself has said that he will be happy to play wherever on the pitch, as long as he is playing, but is that really true? As an attacking force he is vital, but his mindset and courage makes him play all over the pitch. We are seeing a very different Wayne to who joined our club at the raw age of 18. So, exactly who is Wayne Rooney?

Despite having his best ever goal tally in 2010, playing as a lone striker, it was not the Rooney we are used to see. All his 34 goals came inside the box, 25 of them with his first touch. Using his brain to get into clever positions has always been a part of Wayne, but never his main asset. It seemed to hinder the rest of his game. Despite looking like the best striker in the world, he did not seem to relish the fact that he was our sole threat up front. Whether it was because he could not handle the pressure or just because he does not think of himself that highly is up for discussion, but he never looked fulfilled as a player. In his first 5 years at United he had been more of a supplier for the likes of Ruud, Saha, Tevez, and Ronaldo, and despite the latter’s departure bringing out the true goalscorer in him, he seemed more static and reduced. Of course, every striker gains confidence from scoring goals, but Wayne has always been one to score in spells. In 2008 he got 10 goals in 9 games for club and country, and in 2006 he scored 8 in 9 for United. Even in his amazing 2009/10 season, it was a spell of 21 goals between January and March that got him his breathtaking amount of goals. As for success on the pitch, United only won the Carling Cup that season thanks to a Wayne Rooney header in the final. His ankle problem ruined a lot for United against Bayern and Chelsea that season, but then Rooney had also been injured for the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona in 2008 without it making much of a difference. Of course we had blind linesmen and injuries forcing us to play a defence consisting of Carrick and Fletcher, but overall it was not an impressive season by United, and Rooney himself looked displeased.

His talk of ambition later that year kind of points this out. After a poor World Cup campaign, the blame was solely placed on young Wazza’s shoulders. He does not always perform when playing for England, and It may have to do with his pleasure. Being the main man in the National team does not really seem to make him happy, as Rooney always seems to do better when focus is put on other players. As a footballer earning £200,000 a week, fans have a right to question a player’s attitude if he seems to not care on the pitch. But he is a human being himself, and despite being someone who thrives on pressure he does not seem to enjoy the limelight. People like Beckham and Ronaldo relished being known, doing everything they could to enhance their reputation. But Wayne has always been a shy lad who seems to enjoy having big people around him, and his talk about ambition really makes you think. Other than Nani, this club does not have many match winners who could turn a game on its head in an instant. Not even Wazza can do that, and he knows. He is not the person to ghost past a whole team, or produce the kind of trick that makes the whole ground go wet. As soon as attention is switched to others, he gets more space, and it is then we see the real and joyful Wayne Rooney. Simply said, he needs someone else to be a star for him to shine brightly.

As a character, he is a Manchester United player. There are incidents during his career that point to exactly that. His determination to prove others wrong fits perfectly with the Manchester United attitude, and his need to prove things to himself is just as vital. Sometimes it can go a bit overboard, like when he kissed the United-badge in the middle of Goodison Park or applauded the referee for giving him a booking against Villareal. But more often than not, things like that bring out the best in him. In such a controversy ridden career, Wayne has experienced many setbacks. His hat-trick against West Ham, and winner away to Chelsea just 3 days after, came during a week when Wayne was being criticized for not performing and swearing at cameras. Before the 2009/10 season, people doubted whether he could take the next step and replace Ronaldo. He proved that he could, but there is one incident that stands out during that campaign which marks the change of Wayne. 27th December, 2009. United face Hull at the home of the Tigers, with Wayne Rooney giving the Red Devils a first half lead. But then suddenly in the second half, all hell breaks loose for Wayne. Standing close to the mid-circle with the ball at his feet, he decides to play it back to Kuszcack, but misjudges his pass. Hull get a penalty, and suddenly it is 1-1. As Wayne looks in horror as it all unfolds, hand on his heads and a distraught look on his face, something happens inside him. Wayne Rooney goes on to have one of his best games of the season, notching up two vital assists in a 3-1 win. Up to this point, Rooney had a disappointing campaign. Despite scoring 13 goals up to this point, rarely had he performed to a level demanded at United. 5 of his goals had been penalties, and after his hat-trick against Portsmouth SkySports said “It is the first time I have seen someone play so poorly but still score 3 goals”. After the Hull game, Rooney went on to score 21 goals in 3 months, with two headers against City and Villa giving United the Carling Cup.

Looking at stats from that season, it is interesting to see whether the claim that Rooney plays better as a lone striker is correct. He played 43 games that season, scoring 34 goals, and people will remember him as the lone front man, banging in goals. But was he best with a partner?

2009/10
Lone Front Man With Berbatov/Owen
Games: 17 Games: 26
Goals: 13(5 pen) Goals: 21
Average p.game: 0,76 Average p.game: 0,81

The stats say otherwise. Rooney was more prolific when playing with a strike partner, although it must be said that he was still the player furthest up the pitch. Some people may point out that some of the games he played up front on his own were against Milan and Bayern, but then he scored 5 goals in the 4 games he played against them. He also played alone up front in both the games against Arsenal, scoring twice, as well as in three games against Manchester City, scoring once. Even in his most prolific season, Wayne Rooney performed better with a strike partner than when played on his own up front. It is good that he performs well in both positions though, as it gives our manager a great advantage.

When it comes to who his strike partner should be, the stats are quite intriguing. Despite not being in top form for the first 6 months, he did not play badly and missed many easy chances which affected his confidence. His penalty miss against Arsenal shows how low he must have been. Looking at his stats for last season, it seems obvious as to who his strike partner should be as the difference is huge.

2010/11
With Berbatov With Chicharito(2011/12 season included)
Games: 19 Games: 21
Goals: 6(2 pen) Goals: 18(3 pen)
Average p.game: 0,32 Average p.game: 0,86

Despite being the popular choice for many fans, Rooney and Chicharito were not paired together until February 26th against Wigan at the DW Stadium. Rooney scored once in that game, with Chicharito hitting the net twice. Now let us look at how Rooney’s strike partners do when paired with him.

Berbatov with Rooney Chicharito with Rooney
Games: 19 Games: 21
Goals: 17 Goals: 12
Rooney assists: 4 Rooney assists: 4

Berbatov is the winner concerned goal-to-games ratio for his strike partner, but paired together the Rooney-Chicharito partnership produces more goals than when the Englishman plays with Berba. Do not forget that 11 of those 17 Berbatov goals came in just 3 matches as well.

Concerning positions on the pitch, it is obvious that for Rooney’s ego to remain intact he should not be played on his own up front. He is not much of an attacking midfielder either, as his technique and creativity lets him down in those areas. Rooney has played all different attacking roles for United during his 7 years here, from a lone front man, to a winger, even in midfield for the past few weeks. He may have it in him to be a midfielder a long way into the future, but I do not want to see that Wayne as he must have lost everything he is associated with. The Wayne Rooney we all love is powerful, direct, fearless, hard-working, and uncompromising. He is the complete package for a front man, as he consists pace, power, good finishing and a decent header of the ball (scoring 8 headers in a row in 2009/10), but to keep him happy you need him to play deeper. A deep lying forward with freedom to roam is where he excels, and when he has players around him that can steal his limelight, that is when he is at his best and most satisfied. Chicharito’s ability to drag people with him, opening up more space for others, is something which seems to suit Rooney’s playing style. Berbatov, trying to get others into play, is one who feeds from Rooney’s game but does not add much value to it. Whenever Wayne plays with Welbeck they seem to interchange positions a lot, with one coming deep to collect while the other focuses more on stretching the defence and opening up space for others. They take turn doing this, which makes our play more flexible. It is Chicharito that brings the best out of Rooney tough. His playing style adds a lot to Wayne’s game, as he seems better as the supplier rather than the main goal threat.

Rooney assists 2009/10: 6 Rooney assists 2010/11: 12
Goals from outside the area January 2008 – February 2011: 2
Goals from outside the area March 2011 – December 2011: 7

What we understand from the stats above is that Wayne spends way more time outside the penalty box with Chicharito around than he did before. This seems to be a tactical approach which suits Rooney, as his overall contribution grows bigger. One thing to notice is that, with Chicharito around, Wayne gets an awful lot of space. It is not like he plays in midfield, but he, along with the whole team, is dragged further and further up the pitch. Something to notice is the way Rooney has scored his goals. They are all very similar, in the sense that he always finds room just in front of the defenders. You look at his goals against Wolves, Chelsea and Bolton this season, along with Barca at Wembley and his second against West Ham last April, and they are all very similar in the sense that Wayne positions himself in the “rebound area”. Chicharito’s ability to drag defenders closer to goals really benefits Rooney as space on the edge of the 18-yard box becomes bigger. It is similar to the Rooney from 2004-2007, who’s game I based more on instinct than intelligence.

Players with most assists to Rooney since 2009
Nani: 12
Valencia: 9
Giggs: 8

The Wayne Rooney that arrived at Old Trafford in 2004 was one with great skill and confidence, but with little maturity. In the last 7 years we have seen a big transition, from the boy who wanted to dribble himself past a whole team to one who now tries to do the safe thing and play it 50 yards up the pitch instead. His determination is still there, but with a mature approach that was hard to imagine when you saw his early-age temperament.
The 2009/10 season was a breakthrough year for Wayne, not only in the sense of goalscoring, but on the fact that he managed to change his game from someone who relied so heavily on passion and teamwork to a grown man who focused on his brain rather than his feet to win a football match. But seemingly that will not keep him happy, as his love for football and courageous approach means that we are holding back a beast when he plays on his own up front. Despite having all the skill in the world to do it, the only way to keep him happy is to let him play football his way which is as a shining supplier. No longer a White Pele, but a Red Devil in all its might.

RedDevilEddy (@Eddy93Ram)

32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. Nadeem Vadva

    16 December 2011 at 16:33

    fantastic article. well thought out and written :). Wayne will never be a Messi or Ronaldo, but he makes the team tick,and I have a feeling once players like Morrison, Cleverley Pogba and Wellbeck develop, we could see the makings of another fantastic team built around Rooney and Nani

    • RedDevilEddy

      16 December 2011 at 17:58

      Thanks! 🙂 There’s been a lot of talk about Rooney lately so thought it was appropriate to write one at this moment of time. Felt I had to add the “Nani most assists to Wazza” after the discussions between Craig and Stephen, you happy now lads? 😆

  2. devilpujan

    16 December 2011 at 19:28

    awesome article well done mate ! we r united .. man utd forever!

  3. colver

    16 December 2011 at 19:45

    Good article. I’d love to see added statistics for the Ronaldo years. I always felt Rooney was at his best playing one-twos with Ronaldo. The two of them together with Tevez for support were our most potent forward line ever.

    • RedDevilEddy

      16 December 2011 at 20:39

      Well, I have some stats from 2006 to 2009 when Ronaldo left. Didn’t add them as I wanted to focus on Rooney for the last 2 seasons, as he’s been playing in so many different positions that people seem to wonder exactly who he is! But here:

      Wayne Rooney goals: 61
      Cristiano Ronaldo goals: 91

      Rooney assists to Cristiano: 11
      Cristiano assists to Rooney: 16

      In this period they played 126 games together, scoring a combined total of 152 goals. God I miss those days…

  4. Daniele

    16 December 2011 at 19:58

    Great article Eddy! I really enjoyed the read.
    I personally think that Rooney is quality whether he plays alone up front or lying deeper behind another striker. The problems begin when he lies almost in front of the back four because, let’s face it, while he might have a greater and better range of passing than any of our other midfielders, he’ll never be a true playmaker.

    • RedDevilEddy

      16 December 2011 at 21:12

      He’ll never be a true playmaker, that I agree with, but I think he always will be one of the driving forces of this team. His determination and all-round approach makes him someone who’ll always give our team that little bit of extra. Personally I don’t have many problems with Rooney as a lone front man, as he’s shown he’s well capable of using his brain to score goals and get into positions. That he worked so hard on improving his heading as well is worth noting, and should be admired. But I he’s never really looked like relishing it. Wayne has always said that his biggest wish is to play football, no matter where he plays on the pitch. This has somewhat been his downfall, but it just expresses his love to get the ball. When he played in midfield for us a couple of weeks ago he stated that he loved playing there because he got a lot of the ball, and he didn’t really do that in 2009/10. He got a lot of goals, but his overall contribution wasn’t like it’s been every other season.

      I remember Rooney clearing the ball off the line earlier against Bolton this season, without them having a corner or throw in or free kick or any other set piece. He just was there! He’s always been like that, found in our own half to defend and genuinly just wanting to get into positions where he gets the ball. When he’s got Nani or Ronaldo or someone like that in our team, that is totally alright because he knows he can trust other people to make some magic and turn defence into attack. In 2009/10 we didn’t really have that, I mean Nani had a shit season until February(when Rooney went on his goalscoring streak), and for most of the season we had Valencia and Park as our wingers! Neither Berbatov nor Owen have the ability to dismantle a defence as much as Chicharito does, so he must have felt really reduced that season. His talk of “ambition” came into play, and I know a lot of people agreed with him despite being a cunt. Very few of us thought we genuinly had the players to be able to call ourselves the best team in the World. Chelsea were flying, City had just spent billions, Inter had just won the treble, and even Bayern Muncih had Robben, Ribery, Schweinsteiger, Müller and Lahm to show for! Add to that, Rooney had just experienced a World Cup where he got the blame for an overall embarrasing performance! He must have felt that way at United too, being the “main-man” and all that, he must have felt somewhat ill and worried that, if United were to fuck up, he would get the blame. Remember when Ronaldo was at United? There was no talk of Rooney being poor, there was always “Ronaldo never produces in the big games”, and if Rooney went missing against the likes of Chelsea or Liverpool, the blame was put solely on Ronaldo.

      Now we all know Cristiano’s character, he’s a man that wants people to hate him because he feels he has a point to prove. And he relishes that! He wants to have something to prove at all costs, that’s why he can sometimes be a dick. He knows that he’s the best, so if someone doubts him for something, anything that has with him to do, he can prove people wrong. That’s Cristiano for you, and that’s Becks and Cantona to some cost as well. We’ve never really seen that Rooney, if his straks are anything to judge by, he is a player who only does well when he feels confident. When he is confident, he doesn’t matter, but when things go wrong he looks to doubt himself. Which is why he needs another star in the team. Chicharito does well, but I still think both Rooney, and United as a team, would revel from having some special talent in there. And individualist, but of course someone who can work with the team as well. I’ve already mentioned Götze, but we’ll see what the future brings! 😀 Maybe Nani learns how to head the ball!

  5. colver

    16 December 2011 at 21:31

    Eddy, aren’t you always arguing that the presence of Rooney means that an attacking midfielder in the Sneijder/Goetze mould wouldn’t really work for us?

    Personally I think Gaitan would be a dream signing. He can float somewhere between left wing and attacking midfield the way Silva does for City and give us some much needed creativity as well as an alternative to our usual habit of playing it wide and crossing into an empty box.

    Then we can go for a reasonably solid midfield of any two of Rodwell Cleverley or Carrick and we are pretty much sorted.

    • RedDevilEddy

      16 December 2011 at 23:09

      But then Götze isn’t an attacking midfielder, he is more of a winger. Or an “outside-attacking midfielder” as I would call it, much like Ronaldo. Capable of crossing and playing out wide, but has his biggest strengths cutting in and staying rather central to build up play. I still don’t think Sneijder is a necessity, but having someone like Götze, Neymar, Bale or the Godsend Ronaldo back here would be a dream. I really think we need a “flair” attacking player, either out wide or as a striker, and a defensive midfielder. Rodwell and Götze would be ideal 🙂

  6. colver

    17 December 2011 at 00:25

    Yeah but he is more right sided. We already have Nani there. Gaitan drifts between left and centre which is more what we need as Young does not really offer anything magical.

    • Ian

      17 December 2011 at 03:55

      Give Young time, he’ll improve.

      • Daniele

        17 December 2011 at 10:31

        I agree. People often forget that, in most cases, foreign players will need time to adjust to English football which is why i Fergie went for Young in the summer.

  7. Yang

    17 December 2011 at 04:26

    I hope Rooney can hack the job at NT team as soon as possible. Rooney is current United best attacking player so He is our focal point and He define our team attacking move.

    I thought that Rooney is better than Ronaldo at once, somehow, Rooney seems like stagnate for while, He should be far better player than now.

    Team attacking is often decided by best attacking player, look at the Henry’s Arsenal era, Arsenal team attacking was quite heavenly stuff. I think Rooney can do similar feat for United but so far he is not fulfill the dream.

    Anyway nice riview

  8. Ian

    17 December 2011 at 09:50

    Anyone after tickets for Boxing Day v Wigan?

    Got a pair in South Stand for £70

    Email.

  9. Traverse

    17 December 2011 at 13:53

    FIFA are threatening to ban the Swiss FA over the legal row with FC Sion. If they do, FC Basle will be expelled from the Champions League, and United reinstated and drawn against Bayern Munich.

    How’s that for crazy? Probably wont get as far as that, but FIFA are threatening it.

    • RedDevilEddy

      17 December 2011 at 14:06

      It’ll be the first time we’ve gotten a favor from FIFA if it does happen….

      • thatboywazza

        17 December 2011 at 15:15

        LOL i doubt anything will come of it.

        • Traverse

          17 December 2011 at 16:49

          Here’s the article for anyone interested.

          http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/16230934.stm

          Basically Sion were banned from signing players by UEFA, signed six anyway and then took it to swiss courts to get them allowed to play. They then played them against Celtic so UEFA threw them out of the Europa League.

          The court of arbitration for sport has upheld UEFA’s decision, and they say Sion have to stop playing the players. The Swiss FA refuse to enforce it.

          If they don’t enforce it by the 13th of January, Switzerland will be kicked out of UEFA, and thus all of their competitions. Basel out of Champs League.

          Of course the worst case scenario for this is not that it doesn’t happen, it would be that City get put through as best runner up, and not United as the team whose place they took, but putting Celtic through instead of Sion would suggest it’s us who would go through.

        • Craig Mc

          17 December 2011 at 17:33

          Trav – as United have a far better record than the Wastelanders in CL – I cannot see why they would be chosen before us – unless it is City money talking which everyone would know it would be if they got reinstated. I hope the Swiss sort it out pronto because Basel deserve to stay in the comp.

        • Ian

          17 December 2011 at 18:59

          I agree Craig, I hope the Swiss and UEFA sort it pronto too. I think Basle will actually give Bayern a decent game. I’m certainly not making excuses for United but in Streller, Shaqiri, Dragovic, Cabral and Alex Frei they’ve got much better players than anyone’s giving them credit for….it wasn’t all about United not playing well. Remember everyone talks about momentum….well they’ve got that domestically and in CL, I expect them to have a good go at Bayern.

          We got what we deserved and so did Basle, I’d feel embarrassed if we were reinstated and even if we went on to win it it would never count really, no one would acknowledge it……….not that we could win it mind! Not a chance.

    • Traverse

      17 December 2011 at 14:06

      Don’t get me wrong, Bayern would probably murder us and I’d rather play Ajax so Fergie could see Christian Eriksen, Gregory van der Wiel and Jan Vertonghen up close and personal. I’d take all three of ’em given the chance. Vertonghen wouldn’t be first choice for a new DMF, but he could make the step up.

  10. Craig Mc

    17 December 2011 at 15:37

    OH DEAR – tosh tosh tosh, all is tosh! Rooney – BAH!

  11. colver

    17 December 2011 at 18:42

    City have a better record this year Craig. They got 10 points which is usually enough to qualify. And considering they had the hardest group in the competition if anyone deserves a place in the knockout stages it is them. We got 9 points in one of the easiest groups. Nothing to do with money.

    I think a much fairer approach would be to ban Switzerland the following year and allow Basel their run in the competition. They have certainly deserved it, beating us by an aggregate score of 5-4 over the two legs of the knockout stages.

    Besides I’m pumped about the Ajax tie. We’ve never played them before and have a much better chance of a decent run in the Europa league. Our youngsters would gain nothing from being humiliated by Bayern Munich. But if they get us to the Europa League final it would be an excellent experience that would prepare them well for an assault on the Champions League next season.

    • Craig Mc

      17 December 2011 at 20:33

      Everythings to do with money mate – whether EUFA, FIFA or the FA acknowledge it or not!

  12. RedDevilEddy

    17 December 2011 at 23:00

    Here is a question for you!

    Would you like Cristiano Ronaldo back at United?

    • Craig Mc

      17 December 2011 at 23:08

      ALWAYS – the Wastelanders have offered him the total world, more money than he will ever need – but he refused them last year. They want him bad to kick United in the balls – but we will see if he comes back to England whether Fergie wants him bad enough to squeeze the Glazers balls to get every penny he needs. The wastelanders keep waving their money under United’s noses with little response from United – but will Fergie fight for Ronnie or let him go to the shitty, because Ronnie is saying he would like a return to England.

    • AndyCR7

      18 December 2011 at 05:50

      Rhetoric question! Anyone saying NO is lying…

  13. colver

    18 December 2011 at 01:07

    It is true only Manchester City can afford Ronaldo. I’d love to have him back but not if it meant selling Hernandez and Nani and putting a freeze on new signings for the foreseeable future.

    While we do need some star quality in our team I would rather we buy a star midfielder because at the top level that is where games are won and lost.

  14. thatboywazza

    18 December 2011 at 08:41

    Manchester United are close to securing a £29.3million deal to sign Benfica midfielder Nicolas Gaitan at the end of the season, with the Portuguese club understood to have struck an informal agreement with the Premier League champions over the sale of the Argentina international

    source:sunday telegraph

  15. Owen

    18 December 2011 at 11:20

    United Unchanged…

  16. RedDevilEddy

    18 December 2011 at 11:22

    Chicharito on the bench motherfuckersssssssss!!!

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