We all know about this seasons Wayne Rooney saga that blighted front, middle and back pages between summer and winter last year. The column inches were adorned with stories about his injuries, to his form, to his personal and professional life.
But anything ‘newsworthy’ has seemingly died down now. Rooney is being treated as a hero again by many Reds (despite the absence of a certain song that I don’t know if we’ll ever sing again), so it’s time to reflect just what sort of contribution our number 10 is making to our cause right now.
It’s unusual for me to write anything on United with a negative slant, but for now I don’t believe that his contribution is a good one.
Wazza’s transfer request, his comments and his subsequent change of mind all played a part in a frustrating week or two for die-hard Reds when it all emerged that he wasn’t a happy boy. That, together with the form that the lad was in during previous months just didn’t give a true picture of the Wayne Rooney that we thought we all knew.
We were angry that someone had come out against our religion in this way, and Manchester United players conduct themselves a lot better than that.
With mixed feelings about Rooney on the terraces after he’d signed his new deal, Ferguson pulled off a masterstroke, as he does, by bringing him on to the pitch alongside the legend of Paul Scholes. A great ploy to minimise any negativity towards the Liverpudlian, and soon enough the atmosphere at Old Trafford was back to normal.
Moving ahead slightly, two weeks ago I was in a conversation with a match going friend who said he was glad to see that Rooney was “back to his best”. I asked him what he thought his best was, and he replied that he seemed to have the fire back in his belly.
No idea what face I pulled – I pull some special one’s at the best of time, but I’ve got fire in my belly when it comes to United, so should I get a game?
He’s definitely better than he was over the summer and at the beginning of the season, I think he’s a world away from the player we adored until all this happened. There’s still something not quite right. His technique is pretty much back, his fight and spirit – yes it’s getting there, but there’s something missing. Something a lot deeper. And I think it’s psychological.
Without wanting to get too deep in to this and pretend I’m an expert in something I’m not, I was always told at schoolboy and district level football that good players know what they’re going to do with the ball before they receive it. A very basic psychological/football ideal, but one which is true.
I can use Nani as a great example. Prior to that game at Arsenal last season, here was a guy who was regularly played out of his favoured position, with the burden of having to try and emulate that other Portuguese right winger that we were spoiled with for a few years. He’d get the ball on the left hand side or wherever, and he’d not have any idea what he was going to do. Clueless, he’d shuffle about, hold on to the ball, and run down blind alleys before producing an ineffective end product or losing possession which had people doubting if he’d have much more of a future at Old Trafford.
This is what I’ve seen Rooney do since he came back in to the team after signing his deal.
I think he was wrongly credited as the inspiration of the 7-1 beating of Blackburn Rovers in November (something I reserve for Anderson and Berbatov), and his form has been nothing much more than that of a passenger in recent matches, the Rovers game included. Attempts on goal…he’s been restricted to a few long range shots. On target, granted – but has there been many that have been trouble for the keeper?
I think he’s getting the ball, and then trying to decide what he should do. The odd flash of the old Rooney comes back in fits and starts, but it’s worrying that he’s holding on to the ball for so long, attracting 2 or three players towards him…and not knowing what his next steps are.
Should I pass? Should I try beat this guy? Err…mmm…Oh damn, I’ve smashed it against the defenders legs. Again. He seems very flat at the moment, and all out of ideas.
When Fergie brought him back in to the team, I think we as United supporters should have made him earn back the respect he needed from us, by getting himself in order on the pitch. But he was forgiven for the manner in which he conducted himself as a United player far too easily by the spectators at Old Trafford (and I don’t agree with the boo’s), by simply signing his name on a bumper new deal.
I feel that he was lucky with that – but on the flip side, with the fans applauding him, chanting his name and showing the love once again should have brought him a huge lift. What more could he need, or be given than that?
An ominous question?
Surely he has everything he wants and needs to get him back to being the Wayne Rooney we remember prior to March 2010. But I don’t think that’s had any effect on him, and I think there’s a mental block of some sort. Just because he simply doesn’t look the full picnic basket out there on the pitch.
Does he want to be here? Has he peaked too soon and we’ve had his best days? Is he disillusioned with life and the spotlight that comes with being who he is?
Whatever the answers, it’s us who’re putting up with the consequences and with Birmingham and Blackpool coming up, I wonder if it’s time to bench Rooney for a couple of games and give the Chicha/Berba partnership a go, to let Rooney know he’s still got some stepping up to do.
We’re Manchester United and we need Manchester United players who are on their game. There’s a 19th title that we’ve got to think about.
I’ll gladly welcome back Wayne Rooney to the fold when he’s doing what he knows, and what we know he can do. But when that will be, I don’t know. It doesn’t look like it could be anytime soon, and I don’t know what else can be done for him.
But I hope he comes out of it like Nani did, and we see a player who convinces us that he’s worth his place with our club. Again.
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