There is an easy scapegoat at United if you try and forget the odd-ball “tactics” implemented by David Moyes last season. And he goes by the name of Wayne Rooney. A character that was paved as a quick hero at United, a hard man with a big temperament, a game-changer, a frustrated and angry player who has been moved around in positional play, relied on, busted on, loved and hated. For more than a decade, he’s been at the centre of many of United’s fairytales, and many of their blindsided horror stories. There are things that stick to mind: that overhead kick in the Manchester derby, his upside-down love-hate-love relationship with Ferguson, the supposed, alleged transfer request and helplessness felt in a squad that was not good enough and finally wearing the skipper’s armband at the biggest club in the world. No one could write it better. With the lack of experience at United at the moment, it’s no wonder that Rooney, who is full of experience for club, country and in the Premier League, is a natural target for fans and critics.
In United’s embarrassing defeat to Leicester on the weekend, Rooney was again targeted by United fans in a role where is set as a roaming, deep No. 10 to supply and move the ball so the likes of Van Persie and Falcoa can provide some goal-scoring opportunity. It’s not a Wayne Rooney in complete form no, but there is definitely an exaggerated attack on him from inside the club. Rooney, however wayward a first touch he has, moved the ball quite well and went down as a workhorse throughout the ninety – something that we can’t quite say of the defensive line who failed to track back and watched Leicester attack at will. I think he’s also found a little bit of a click with Di Maria who likes to run at opponents and delivers ideal crosses for our attackers to pounce on. It was Rooney, too, who found Di Maria before United’s second goal. It was perhaps his only real highlight but there was nothing to really boast about in that performance anyway (Okay, besides United’s goals).
But our exposed backline gave Leicester so much room to work from. There were times when I saw Rooney track back and help clear the ball because it seemed the only way to deter a spirited opponent. And while many fans on social media disliked the fiery captain when he was shouting at his defenders, wouldn’t you have done the same? They needed a bollocking and I can only think of Rooney in this squad who can provide the same temperament that Roy Keane would have. The defence, as we know, lacks leadership with Vidic, Evra and Ferdinand no longer at the club. With United not investing enough at the back, there has to be a great deal more emphasis on building from the back. What a majestic unit that would be with the club’s already impressive attacking combos.
With Van Gaal possibly ruling out Rooney’s role as a striker, it’s possibly the ideal time for Rooney to possess a role that could be his crown. He’s not as quick and doesn’t have that killer instinct in front of goal that he did a few years back. Ideally, Falcoa or a fit Van Persie should provide those poacher qualities. Rooney is a more versatile, clever player than he was and while it rules out a bucket load of goals, it could be something that could turn him into a Scholes-like player in the next few seasons. Okay, a little stretched of an idea but go with me here. Even Rooney admits that he is not the player he was. But he can bring a certain intelligence and vision to the squad. He may be lacking a little confidence, too, but I think it could be a role he will be drilled into achieving – as player and captain. I wouldn’t say Rooney is undroppable but in a new role, he could be.
Maybe it’s a bit of nostalgia and bias from my side. I do love Rooney and always have. Hope he can put a few things right in the next few months. His magic has won over many United fans in the past.