Manchester United fans have become accustomed to reading about our beloved players getting slated in the press. Whilst certainly all of our players aren’t angels, any of their wrong doings are put firmly in the spot light. A sending off, a rant at the referee, a bad tackle, a wrongly awarded penalty, are amongst the many things we see highlighted when one of our players screws up. Similar incidents occur up and down the country, but it is our player who will have his face on the back of the tabloids the following day.
Those who read this blog regularly will know I am a massive fan of Wayne Rooney and champion him whenever given the opportunity. Sir Alex Ferguson said that when he first saw him play he looked like a Manchester United player. It’s true. He is immensely talented, is totally driven, loves the game, has fire in his belly, and his appearance on the pitch frequently makes the difference between us losing out and getting a result.
Yet because of his below par performances for his country (which to be fair, could be said of pretty much every player who pulls on an England shirt!) and the self-sacrificing performances for United which cost him the individual glory, he gets quite a bit of stick.
So sit back and enjoy this great piece of writing.
Everyone is wading into The Wild Child. Harry Redknapp would play him on the right. Stick him on the left, barks Neil Warnock. Fabio Capello favours him up front.
The poor kid. With two Barclays Premier League titles and a European Cup slugging it out for space with the wedding pictures at Wayne’s World, the £5million mansion he is building in Bramhall, his career is in crisis.
Bodyswerve two successive PFA young player of the year trophies, the Sir Matt Busby player of the year award and a nomination for the World player of the year, the boy is washed up. At 22. Kaput. Finito.
No matter that he turns up at Carrington every day with the same impish enthusiasm that saw him cultivate his skills on the streets of Croxteth, the Rooney Wrecking Ball has not been operating at full capacity for some time.
Even a straw poll among sympathetic Stretford Enders leaves them scratching their heads. Aston Villa last February, perhaps, when he scored twice in a 4-0 destruction of Martin O’Neill’s upwardly mobile team?
Hold on, how about the 2-0 victory over Roma at Old Trafford four days later? Either way, it was a long time ago. Still, the statistics paint a pretty picture, suggesting that United have a goalscorer of considerable class. In 128 appearances for United before last night, he had scored 53 goals.
In the process he had also taken quite a liking to Portsmouth, rattling in seven goals in 11 games against Harry Redknapp’s side.
Not quite in Cristiano Ronaldo’s company, but impressive, all the same.
So what is it we want from a player who, by common consensus, is the most prodigious talent that the nation has produced since Paul Gascoigne came on as a substitute for Newcastle United and curled a right-foot effort into the back of Oxford United’s net way back in 1985?
Rooney’s touch remains rhythmic, caressing the ball into MySpace, the area immediately in front of his feet, and playing lob wedges to his striker partner Carlos Tevez, across the field to full back Wes Brown or into the path of Paul Scholes.
Then there is the unseen work, the shifts in play that set United apart from the opposition last season and most likely this. He is an unselfish runner, willing to share the workload with his team-mates and always ready to rob lazy defenders on the edge of the area.
The opposition shadow-box him, following his every move and hoping that Rooney does not bob and weave his way into possession. That alone is a substantial weapon for Sir Alex Ferguson.
Certainly, he needs a goalscorer alongside him to gather momentum. Ronaldo will soon be back in this United team, but Rooney should be one up on him already. The Whinger’s absence is a head start for the United striker and he ought to have scored from Wes Brown’s cross midway through the first half last night.
Typical of this engaging United team, they swept the ball across the pitch at will and mesmerised Portsmouth’s defence with a series of crossfield passes.
Pompey were bewildered and Rooney pounced on Brown’s cross. One touch with his right foot, neatly setting up the shortest of backlifts for him to burst the back of the net in the next frame and then David James gratefully gathered his effort snugly in his chest.
A goal would have surely settled the argument. And not just the one taking place on the pitch.