Pep Guardiola and Roberto Mancini's react after Bayern Munich beat Italian Serie A side Inter Milan 1-0 in a pre-season friendly in Shanghai.
A decade ago, Wayne Rooney burst onto the scene for Manchester United in phenomenal fashion. A sumptuous hat-trick on debut in the Champions League against Fenerbahce immediately warranted the Dhs160 million (£28m) paid to Everton for the then 18 year-old.
The quality of the goals pointed to the legendary goal scorer the striker seemed destined to become. At 29, Rooney is now club captain and just 19 strikes shy of Sir Bobby Charlton’s record of 249 goals for United.
With a tally of 5 Premier League titles, 2 League Cups, 1 Champions League and 1 Club World Cup, he has gone on to become an accomplished player over the course of his career in the red half of Manchester. The question is, have United extracted the most out of his capacity as a lethal scorer?
Over 11 seasons at Old Trafford, the man who was dubbed ‘The White Pele’ very early on in his career boasts a healthy average of 20.90 goals per season. However, given his talent and initial promise as a world-class goal scorer, it’s not untoward to expect a figure closer to 25.
Even if you consider only the last six seasons, since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo which gave Rooney the opportunity to take centre stage, he still averages only 22 goals per season. It’s a more than useful return but these were meant to be his most prolific years where his annual tally should be reaching greater heights.
Sergio Aguero has averaged 26.75 goals per season over the last four years with Manchester City while in three full seasons with Liverpool Luis Suarez averaged 26 goals per season. Rooney’s capabilities as a goalscorer should see him counted in the same company as the two South Americans but he’s not nearly as prolific.
However, that’s not to say that he’s made less of a contribution. In his time at United, Rooney has provided 145 assists. He’s often had to play a supporting role and last season he was made to feature in midfield far too often, with United struggling in that department.
Ironically, while his extraordinary talent has set him apart over the years, it’s also been a curse, hampering his ability to fulfil his potential as one of the best strikers in the world. Rather than having a specific skillset like most centre forwards, Rooney is the complete player and while that’s aided his side, it hasn’t necessarily worked to his advantage.
Being the team player that he is, he’s always been willing to sacrifice his preferred position for the greater good, whether that means doing a job out wide or plugging a hole in midfield. Ruud van Nistelrooy for example was an out-and-out goal poacher, a creature of the 18-yard box and a fine one at that.
Given his specialised field there could never have been the slightest chance of him being played anywhere else. If Rooney’s capabilities were as stubbornly tuned to perform solely as a striker, he probably would never have been dislodged from that role and would likely be far more prolific.
In light of the exodus of strikers at Old Trafford this summer, he has a chance to rediscover his natural place on the pitch. United will need him to return to his preferred role upfront where he’s always been most effective. You want your best players in areas where they can hurt the opposition and in front of goal is where Rooney does the most damage.
With stellar midfield recruits secured in the form of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin, Rooney’s days of filling in at central midfield should be behind him for the foreseeable future.
The last time the Englishman played consistently as the lone striker for United was back in the 2009-10 season, during which he racked up 34 goals in 44 appearances and was named the PFA Player of the Year. At the time, he fed on crosses into the box, scoring 10 consecutive headed goals at one stage during the campaign. This time around, he’ll be supported by quality players on the flanks but also in midfield and that will only serve to provide him with more diverse supply lines.
Rooney has shown just how effective he can be as the main striker in recent times with England as well. With Daniel Sturridge side-lined through injury, the United skipper has regularly featured upfront for the national side over the past year or so and has scored 10 times in 17 appearances for a team that’s going through big transitions.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) July 21, 2015
The Red Devils have been linked with numerous A-list strikers since Robin van Persie’s move to Fenerbahce was made official. The likes of Thomas Muller, Edinson Cavani and Robert Lewandowski have all been associated with moves to the Premier League giants but each with a price tag more extravagant than the other.
There’s a reason why Jose Mourinho was so desperate to sign Rooney for Chelsea a couple of seasons ago. He publicly voiced his intentions to recruit the Englishman, stating that he was the ideal frontman to spearhead the attack for the Londoners.
It’s about time United showed the same faith in their captain that the Portuguese exhibited not too long ago. With Javier Hernandez back into the reckoning and James Wilson eagerly awaiting more first team opportunities, the club do have options off the bench. At the most, United would do well to secure the services of a capable striker to play second fiddle to their No. 10.
Rooney has always been recognised as one of the finest footballers in the world without being uplifted into that elitist category reserved for the top 3-5 players. This season however, it’s as if the stars aligned to furnish him with the perfect conditions to flourish. He has everything he needs to get the most out of his remarkable talent and achieve the kind of greatness that prodigal teenager from Merseyside was always destined for.
Over 93,000 fans packed into the Rose Bowl to watch LA Galaxy against FC Barcelona for the International Champions Cup. It was the biggest crowd for a club soccer game involving an MLS team in U.S. history including former Liverpool stars Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez.