Rooney’s Renaissance

Sport

Most Manchester United fans are unlikely to take many positives from their recent 4-1 defeat to rivals Manchester City, but the buoyant performance of Wayne Rooney was certainly one. Indeed, Rooney played like the Rooney of old, producing a display much more reminiscent of the fresh-faced teenager who burst onto the Premier League scene at the age of sixteen than the 27-year-old man who, by his own admission, “struggles to walk for the first half an hour” when he gets out of bed.

By and large, the Rooney of the past three years hasn’t been as good as he should have been. Apart from a revival in form partly sparked by the sublime overhead kick back in 2011 and a haul of 27 league goals the following season, Rooney has stumbled from a dismal World Cup campaign in 2010 to sitting on the bench during that fateful night against Real Madrid. More instructive than anything perhaps, is the fact that Chelsea’s rumoured summer bid of £25 million for a player who should be entering the peak years of his career was almost identical to the amount Manchester United paid Everton for Rooney at 18-years-old.

Rooney’s performance against City however, was everything that his performances in the past season in particular have lacked. His pinpoint consolation free-kick aside, we saw a leaner and more mobile Wayne Rooney who seems to have regained that extra yard of sharpness using his superb touch and passing range to once again set the tempo of United’s attacks. An energetic jewel in an otherwise abject exhibition of Moyes’ United, Rooney worked tirelessly to get in between the lines, pressing City without the ball and looking to threaten on goal with it.

Regardless of whether or not he is happy at Old Trafford, this is a World Cup year and both England and Manchester United desperately need the old Rooney back. England’s qualification is on a knife edge and a moment of quality from Rooney could easily be the difference between automatic qualification or two more trademark Roy Hodgson draws. For a player whose best international tournament remains Euro 2004, Rooney needs a performance befitting the forum of Brazil to secure both his national and international footballing legacy. In the shorter term, a United midfield badly lacking creativity will rely heavily on both Rooney and Robin van Persie to drag them into the top four, let alone regain their title.

If you’d asked supporters to name their top five Premier League strikers midway through last season, the sad reality is that Wayne Rooney would have been fourth or fifth on the list, if at all. This is a player who has been consistently very good for a very long time, rise to the occasion for club and country this season and Rooney will finally be recognised as the great player he’s always been expected to become.

 

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