After a ragged start to the season, the jury is out on Wayne Rooney’s capabilities to spearhead Manchester United’s attack.
Three games in and question marks have been raised over the captain’s performances. The Liverpudlian has had a sloppy start and seems to be way off the pace which is a cause for concern for the Old Trafford faithful.
With high profile forwards Radamel Falcao and Robin van Persie a distant memory, Rooney has been recalled into his full time forward role after his midfield exploits last season.
Louis van Gaal has opted not to improve the forward department this summer which has flabbergasted many.
Chelsea have ousted United in the pursuit for Barcelona star Pedro Rodriguez, the Spaniard would surely have significantly bolstered United’s attacking options and aided Rooney’s pursuit for goals.
United’s reliance on Rooney to fire both domestically and in Europe could backfire given the former Everton man is now 29 and his ability to rekindle his best goal scoring form has been heavily scrutinised.
The England captain’s best position is the no. 10 role but with Van Gaal only having Javier Hernandez and youngster James Wilson as his other recognised strikers, Rooney is currently being unleashed as a full time number nine.
After a troublesome start to the new campaign Van Gaal knew the question was coming after the Club Brugge clash and when it did, he had prepared a simple reply.
“He had a shot on target, so I am happy,” United’s manager said of Rooney.
Rooney’s physical presence, pace and never-say-die attitude used to force defenders into submission. South American trio Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Luis Suarez also have those traits in abundance.
Unfortunately for Rooney, due to his all conquering displays, time seems to be catching up on the United captain and his legs do not possess the explosiveness of yesteryear.
In his opening two Premier League games against Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa, Rooney was sloppy in possession and simply useless when holding up the ball.
Van Gaal’s captain failed to register a shot on target in both games which indicates the lack of confidence and influence Rooney is having on the current United outfit.
“I lost the ball too easily (against Villa) and I’m aware of that. It’s not a game I’ll want to look back on but obviously you have games like that,” said Rooney, all too aware of his lacklustre display.
With the likes of Adnan Januzaj, Andreas Pereira, Juan Mata and Memphis Depay providing youth, pace and creativity, a fit and firing Wayne Rooney mentoring the promising talents would make United’s forward line a formidable outfit.
There is no questioning that Rooney still has the capacity to produce magic moments, like as recently as Tuesday when Luke Shaw led a blistering United counter attack against Club Brugge.
Shaw fired a cross into Rooney who produced an audacious flick for Depay who squandered the opportunity to capture a Champions League hat-trick.
The former Evertonian’s most notable season as a main striker was back in 2009-10, when his movement and special understanding with Antonio Valencia from the right wing saw him conjure up a return of 34 goals.
In 2011-12, Rooney was accompanied by Danny Welbeck and the English pair were instrumental in United’s pursuit of the Barclays Premier League trophy. Rooney produced his best goal scoring return in the Premier League with a tally of 27.
But after narrowly missing out on the title in 2012 when Sergio Aguero scored his dramatic goal against Queens Park Rangers, Sir Alex Ferguson responded with the signing of Robin van Persie.
As a result Rooney had to accept playing second fiddle to Van Persie.
After submitting two transfer requests on two separate occasions during his time at Old Trafford, Rooney has not always been adored by the red side of Manchester due to his questionable loyalty.
He currently trails the great Sir Bobby Charlton’s goal haul by 19 though even with the United captain set to go down as the all-time leading scorer for both club and country, his accomplishments and performances are frequently a cause for debate.
Rooney burst on to the footballing scene at Everton with a last-minute wonder striker to thwart Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal five days shy of his 17th birthday and Wenger was quick to appreciate the talent Rooney possessed.
“Rooney is the biggest England talent I’ve seen since I arrived in England,” said the Frenchman.
“There has certainly not been a player under 20 as good as him since I became a manager here.”
Additionally setting the world alight at Euro 2004, expectations continued to spiral out of control and he has since been seen as the torchbearer of English football. Due to those expectations there is still an argument to suggest that Rooney has never fulfilled his vast potential.
Rooney has often been written off during his time at the Red Devils, the United captain has often defied the critics and produced some of his best performances when his back has been against the wall.
Rooney said: “I’ve had one bad game this season and everyone’s all over it. I know I’ve had that all throughout my career but hopefully at the weekend I can get off the mark.”
Newcastle head to Old Trafford on Saturday (12:45pm) and with Rooney posing a goal scoring return of 18 goals in 30 games against the Magpies, he will be confident of overcoming his drought to silence the critics once again.
Main image courtesy of Nike Football via YouTube, with thanks.