PositioningThe biggest change that has come with Rooney’s new role is his positioning. As the following image shows, Rooney’s (10) average possession during Manchester United’s 3-2 away win over Chelsea this season was just at the half-way line, some light yards behind Robin van Persie (20) and close to the midfield duo of Michael Carrick (16) and Tom Cleverley (23). [caption id="attachment_26830" align="aligncenter" width="521"] via ESPNSoccernet[/caption] This indicates the fact how Rooney often tracks back to be a part of the build-up play and carry out some defensive duties when the opposition mounts pressure. On the other hand, what follows is Chelsea’s Juan Mata’s average position in a game against Stoke City. As the image shows, Mata (sandwiched between 9 and 29) was playing just almost as high as the starting striker (Demba Ba- 29). [caption id="attachment_26831" align="aligncenter" width="585"] via ESPNSoccernet[/caption] Although it has to be noted that while against Chelsea, United played the majority of the game sitting deep and counter attacking until their nemesis were reduced to nine men, the Blues heavily dominated Stoke and hence Mata obviously had more freedom upfront. Nonetheless, it does show that Rooney plays in a much deeper position than a No 10, as well as a second-striker, when required. However, this has often resulted in lack of goals from the England international and Ferguson has done well to counteract this fault by instructing the player to maintain a higher position during the past few weeks, mainly since the once-contract rebel has returned from a short injury-layoff and subsequent compassionate leave. Below is Rooney’s (10) average position against Fulham, the game in which the 27-year-old scored a pivotal winner for United late in the second-half. [caption id="attachment_26832" align="aligncenter" width="585"] via ESPNSoccernet[/caption] Although he shifted on to the left-wing after around the hour-mark, Rooney’s position was relatively higher up the pitch, closer to Van Persie and almost on the same wavelength as Mata’s in the Stoke game. This has in turn resulted in a phenomenal output of goals for the player, with the England international having scored ten goals in his last 12 outings. Via ThinkFootball*: [quote]In recent weeks Rooney has probably been getting closer to Van Persie, with him scoring eight goals in his last seven* Premier League appearances. Prior to that, he was generally playing a lot deeper.[/quote] Thus, in a similar position as a true No 10, Rooney is a better goalscorer than the mercurial Mata, who has 17 strikes in 43 appearances this season, possibly indicating that the former is in-fact a No 10. (* Think Football article was published before the Manchester United-Everton PL game)
- First, a higher proportion of Mata’s passes are direct upfront as compared to Rooney.
- Second, being a left-footed player, 30% of the Spain international’s passes are on the left-side. While, Rooney, being a right-footed player, directs 37% of passes towards the right side. This shows that both the players prefer passing towards their stronger foots' side.
- Third, Rooney also makes 3.5 long balls per game, as compared to Mata’s 2.7. United mainly like to play from the wings and hence, Rooney, as the ideal attacking field general of his side, often dispatches long balls on to the wingers, stretching the play and encouraging quick attacks.
Creativity and Goal Attempts[caption id="attachment_26851" align="aligncenter" width="628"] (Left Table-Rooney's Stats; Right Table- Mata's stats)[/caption] A massive difference that comes between the two players is in this segment. The main role of the No 10 is to first create chances for his attacking colleagues and then for himself. While Mata does this job admirably well, creating a scoring chance every 29 minutes and a clear-cut chance every 161.6 minutes, Rooney is somewhat lacking in this department. This England international creates a scoring chance every 43 minutes and it takes him around 200 minutes to make a clear-cut chance. However, as the image below shows, Rooney takes half the time as Mata to have a direct shot at goal.
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