Wayne Rooney currently has a goal scoring ratio of more than one goal in every two games for Manchester United, and has consistently lead the line for the past five seasons.
Feared by defenders across Europe, week in, week out, Rooney is the first name on the Manchester United team sheet, not to mention the only decent forward within the England squad.
The former Everton man has scored absolute ‘worldies’ on a regular basis for club and country and has picked up many a match ball – not to mention he was voted PFA Players Player of the Year after scoring over 30 goals in all competitions in 2010.
So what is my basis for an argument that Rooney will eventually vacate his role as United main forward?
Back in the early 90s, Paul Scholes came through the United youth ranks as a forward. Gradually making his mark on the first team between 1993-1996, Scholes was deployed as a striker – playing alongside McClair, Hughes, Cole or Cantona.
Scholes wasn’t asked to drop off and play behind the other forward, he was simply in the side to score goals – which he did, time and time again.
It wasn’t until 1996 onwards that Scholes was utilised as a central midfield player. Although behind Keane and Butt in the pecking order, his ability was never in doubt. He could score goals when playing up top, but when dropping deeper, his vision and passing accuracy was second to none – eventually going on to make his mark as one of the greatest central midfield players to ever play the game.
Although these are giant steps to follow, this is the route I see Rooney taking.
Under Sir Alex Ferguson, a ‘positional change during a career despite being completely capable where they are’ is not totally unheard of. Many people forget that when Roy Keane joined United he was a fresh faced youngster who loved the burst forward, with an eye for goal. He even notched two goals on his home debut in 1993 – yet Sir Alex noticed something in Keane which eventually saw the former United captain ply his trade as a tough tackling ball winner.
Rooney clearly has an eye for goal. Stats do not lie and let’s be honest; we have all seen what he can do. However, for me, the reason he has been utilised as a striker for so long is because United simply haven’t had the quality in the squad to release Rooney of this goal scoring burden.
Looking at the strikers of more recent seasons; Berbatov, Hernandez and Welbeck are all good footballers who can lead the line and nick a goal, but do any of them possess the quality of Rooney in terms of movement or finishing? The simple answer is no.
Hernandez is a poacher, but disappears for long spells – even games at a time. Welbeck is still very young and is learning his trade, and sadly, Berbatov never quite made the grade.
Robin Van Persie is a different story.
Arsene Wenger, not too dissimilar to Sir Alex, often sees something in a player that we do not, and changes their position during their career.
Van Persie; half way through his Arsenal tenure from wide man to central striker; and is now arguably the most feared forward in Europe. Always in Wenger’s plan to do this, or something which he noticed on the training ground? Who knows. Either way, the mark of a great manager is noticing this type of thing.
If Van Persie can cope with the pressures of being the man to deliver goals at Old Trafford, I believe Rooney will be utilised in a deeper role.
I am not stating the obvious; we have all seen this work very well over the past couple of weeks with Rooney playing off of RVP – but what about next season, and the season after?
If Danny Welbeck continues to progress at the rapid rate he is, surely he and Van Persie could forge a fearsome partnership, meaning Rooney could drop even deeper into one of our two central midfield ball winners/ball players.
At times this season, we have seen Rooney drop so deep that he is breaking up opposition play on the edge of his own 18-yard box. We all know he can pick a 40-yard pass as well as keep the ball in the tightest of spaces – so is there really anything preventing this transition taking place?
Is there a question mark over Rooneys temperament? Not for me. Only two yellow cards in as many seasons for United; and certainly no more a hot-head than Keane, Scholes Butt or Ince were.
Wayne Rooney hasn’t been blessed with the physique of Cristiano Ronaldo – he will be the first to admit he carries weight – however this immediately puts him in a favourable position when it comes to body strength. He is never going to lose out for being lightweight is he.
I predict a full transition for Wayne Rooney over the next two seasons which will see him develop into one of the world’s best central midfielders. He has all of the attributes to play in this role, and now it seems can finally pass on the job of scoring goals to a more than capable team mate in Van Persie.
To respond to me directly, I am on Twitter: @NathonW
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