Thursday, August 28, 2008

Where in the world is Wayne Rooney?

You can surely file this missive under the "Too Early" label, but it's still a point worth mentioning: what on earth has happened to Wayne Rooney? He's been on a rather troubling trajectory of late, and his growing anonymity in games is close to rivaling the disappearances of England teammate Frank Lampard. Where's the hustle, the influence, the pace, the tenacity? Perhaps he left them all at the beach with Coleen?

As far as his career is going, he's at a difficult age. Considering when he came into the league, he's still incredibly young, but time served dictates that he should be emerging into one of the world's top players at this point. He's had great managers, great teammates, and all the opportunities in the world to take his skills to the highest possible level. Of course I'm not ruling out that he'll still get there, but his rather lackluster form is troubling the masses.

The papers and the blogs are beginning to touch the story, so I figured I'd have a go. My solution is relatively simple: he needs to leave Manchester United.

The Guardian is the first to point out the delicate situation unfolding, noting that Fergie isn't really doing a good job in figuring out what to do with young Wayne, or how to curb his natural tendencies to backtrack when he's needed as a striker. For them, the answer is simple: buy another striker.

Right, it's that simple, isn't it? The process of solving problems via spending has worked, with varying degrees of success, the other big English clubs, and it seems like whenever they have a down year, Barca and Real simply open the purse and let their wheeling-dealing fix any issues they couldn't battle out of before.

However, time is ticking on that window, and the Berbatov mess is now worse than the Gareth Barry quicksand that sapped our energy all summer long.

This guy sums things up a bit, but leaves us on a cliffhanger, although he does point to two other articles that present another side to an already complex problem.

Again, the Guardian looks at Rooney's wandering tendencies as being part of the problem, and miraculously, they get Fergie to open up on the subject! Normally he would let his lacky deal with any unpleasantness, but Queiroz is long gone back to Portugal...

This is something we are talking to Wayne about and he himself has started to identify that it's a weakness. It is not a bad thing for him to have come out [after England's 2-2 draw against the Czech Republic] and said so.

He is realising he needs to be more around the edge of the box in the last third of play. It can be a waste of energy chasing from man to man to man. But that's his natural enthusiasm and you can't fault that."
Well, if we're being brutally honest, you can fault that, especially if it's stopping Manchester United from being the offensive juggernaut they and their fans have come to expect.

Meanwhile, another perspective offers word from young Wayne himself, and how he feels he doesn't need to change his style in order to win:
While Ferguson is content the deficiency is nothing major, he does feel Rooney's energy could be better utilised elsewhere.

Capello is of the same opinion and feels the 22-year-old should concentrate on terrorising opposition defences, but Rooney is content with the way he plays and does not believe any adaptation is required.

"I don't think I will ever lose my determination," he said.

"It is something I have always had. If we are not winning I get frustrated. "I don't like losing. If you are telling me that is wrong I won't believe you."

Rooney clearly feels his all-action style is based upon a natural competitive streak that comes to the surface when situations are starting to turn sour.
Uh oh. Well this is a little mini-storm brewing, isn't it?

Fabio and Fergie feel one way, Rooney does another. So what's the tipping point?

As I see it, albeit in my outsider, bloggy perspective, think this isn't something that's going to disappear any time soon, regardless of whether Man U get themselves scoring three or four goals a game. Rooney's style of play is rather hard to pin down into a system, but it appears that a system and form is exactly what Man United are looking for. They want a coherent style of play with a clear purpose, but it's tough to do that when you have a player who doesn't understand where their responsibilities begin or end.

A lot of people (including on this blog) point to Steven Gerrard as being a guy who gives Liverpool a similar problem; no matter what the formation or tactics, Stevie Mbe has freedom to do whatever he pleases, and while I welcome that, it's not entirely beloved.

For Rooney, it's slightly different considering he's employed as a striker. It's no secret that your strikers are going to be ineffective when they're coming back to their own half to either win possession or collect possession, but what can Ferguson do? Tevez also loves to come back behind the front two and maraud, so that leaves them with just Saha and Frazier Campbell to actually play striker. Not exactly world-beating, is it?

The other big complication is Rooney's age. He's demonstrated in the past just how sensitive he is to criticism, a by-product of his tough upbringing, and while he thrived at a one-dimensional club like Everton, where both his work rate and enthusiasm were championed, things are a bit different at Old Trafford.

The team mentality is there like it was at Goodison, but there are still hierarchies of personality within the team, and it trickles down from there. Everyone has a job to do, and Rooney's constant disappearance from the front line, where he should be, is causing problems in the way they distribute the ball and begin their attacks.

When Ronaldo is back, it should get easier for Fergie to marshal everyone into a coherent attacking unit, but if he speaks out much more on the subject, he risks sending Rooney into a tailspin.

Wayne Rooney is the future of England. He's showing the skill of Beckham, the scoring ability of Lineker, and the guts and emotion of Gascoigne, arguably three of our biggest national heroes in the annals of history. Perhaps Man United's formalism isn't right for him. These problems wouldn't crop up at a club where he could employ his work rate without fear of rebuke. For me, I certainly don't think it's where he is now.


thapeez said...

Maybe his training is being affected by his other job.

Keith said...

/unpleasant for Marc Stein threadjack

Cit-teh advacne to the UEFA Cup draw on a Mityjjland OG, penalties.

Eladio said...

"It's not malaria, like."

So if Rooney was to leave Old Trafford, where would he go? I can't imagine him heading to another EPL team, but he wouldn't be a good fit in either Spain or Italy either, I don't think. Bundesliga, perhaps, but i can't imagine Rooney (or the new young missus) happy in Munchen or Stuttgart. My prediction: If he leaves, it'll be for Newcastle and their new owners.

Another question for any Toffee out there: While it would never happen, would Evertonians welcome him back if Moyes ponied up the cash for him? Or has he burned way too many bridges (including the entire SUN issue)?

Mike Georger said...

i predicted he would eat his way out of europe by 30, i may have low balled myself on this one

ive been saying hes an overrated player for years, and not just because he plays for united.

Andrew said...

Send him to Ligue 1! He can help Lyon underachieve in CL or PSG avoid relegation or OM cook up a new scandal. Plus, the French could use a tad bit more (skill-less) tenacity.

The NY Kid said...

@Andrew - we do just fine with lack of skill, thank you very much!