May 2013: Manchester United regain the league title from their noisy neighbors in a ruthless fashion, thanks to an injury-free Robin Van Persie and his title-winning left foot. The 20th league title, was very much Sir Alex Ferguson’s parting gift. Well, it could have been Wayne Rooney’s too. Much has been talked about the strained relationship between Wayne Rooney and the ex-manager, resulting in two transfer requests in the space of three years. The club’s ambition was questioned and eyebrows were raised.
February 2014: Rooney is seen relaxing (and training too) in Dubai with his teammates – Manchester United teammates, enjoying the warm weather training and the prospect of signing one last bumper contract that should make him the highest paid player in the Premier League.
It’s safe to say, one doesn’t have to follow Manchester United week-in week-out, to realise the contribution of Wayne Rooney this season. Manchester United quite simply are experiencing their worst Premier League campaign in over two decades and some of the players’ performances throughout the season have been downright criminal. I’m already anxious to see the names of the players that get nominated for the end-of-the-year awards, held by the club. However, for all the uncertainty off the pitch, Rooney has been solid and consistent on it, if not stellar thus far. If one player doesn’t deserve to be 7th in the table at this stage of the season, it has got to be this man from Merseyside.
So, Rooney has started 19 games in the league this season already, just 3 shy of last season’s total league appearances. Barring the odd abductor injury in January, he’s been consistently fit, rubbishing Sir Alex’s ‘lack of fitness‘ claims last season.
Rooney is arguably the best passer among the current crop of Manchester United players, with the club still struggling to find a replacement for veteran Paul Scholes. His cross-field passes are pleasing on the eye and they have always been effective in most of the attacking moves that lead to clear-cut chances and goals at United. As far as passing is concerned, Rooney has been pretty much the same he was last season. The open play pass completion rate is 80%, not bad for a player who plays in 3 positions almost every game to cover up for players that have a bad day at the office. With a dozen games to be played yet, Rooney’s overall pass completion rate is 73%, which can go up to his rate last season of 77-78% owing to the relatively easy run of fixtures between now and the business end of the season.
CONTRIBUTION – IN NUMBERS
Rooney did contribute to 22 of Manchester United’s 86 goals in the league last season. That is roughly 25% of the total managed by the team. And this season, Rooney has set up 9 and popped in 9 himself so far, thereby contributing to 18 of United’s 41 goals which is more than 35% of the team’s tally. He’s made 32 successful dribbles, which is almost three times higher than what he managed during the entirety of last season. Talk about confidence on the ball.
He’s created 35 chances already, chances that were not converted (incl set plays). I for one hope the others, the forwards (especially Robin) raise their games to convert more of these chances to goals in the last 12 crunch games of the season. One statistic that quite clearly conveys how one-dimensional we have been is the amount of crosses Wayne Rooney has whipped in this season. For a player that plays off the striker, 145 crosses is a ridiculous number. And unsurprisingly, only 28 of them have found a teammate.
CONTRACT EXTENSION – FUTURE LEADER
With Vidic set to depart this summer to Inter, a possible lucrative 5-and-half-year contract plus the armband could well be Rooney’s reward for a solid season, on a personal level. Though some of the staunchest of United supporters – including myself – would find it hard to stomach the fact that he’d be wearing the armband after having held the gun at the clubs’ head twice, there’s no denying it could only do a world of good to his confidence. Rooney recently spoke of his desire to break Sir Bobby Charlton’s record of 249 goals for United. And the England striker’s current tally stands at 208. With the club’s all-time top scorer well in his sights, let us wish he starts working on it from the very next game.