Manchester United is one of the most interesting teams in the Premier League (and probably all of Europe) this season. Roster turnover, additions of SUPERDUPER stars, and the appointment of Jose Mourinho all add up to a headline-stealing team that regardless of play on the field will surely exhaust your attention over the next 8 months.
For whatever reason, watching the Paul Pogba and Zlatan headlines come rolling in with the United sigil attached has thrown me into a conundrum of sorts. For me, Manchester United is supposed to be a staple of success, passing up on short term hype for a structured and consistent approach. This doesn’t feel right to me.
The one thing that does feel right for some strange reason is the sight of Wayne Rooney wearing a captains armband, chasing down the opposition and being bald as ever. That’s the United I know. So I gravitate towards watching his movement around the pitch, and the way he interacts with teammates and manager alike, and observe his role.
What is his role? Well, this has been bothering me for about 4 years, and it’s about time we talk about it. Wayne Rooney, where art thou even fucking playing?
The numbers suggest that Wayne Rooney has been one of the most prolific goal scorers of his generation. Notice the word ‘goal scorer’ as a substitute for striker, and you may just sort of assume that he’s playing a more attacking 9/10 hybrid. But when watching Manchester United play, you see that his heat map may be inconsistent with a player in that role. At one point in time, Rooney was one of the best pure strikers in the world, scoring at will and leading the Premier League in goals for two seasons.
But a look at this graph, and you may start to become a little worried… at only 30 years old, his best position and years may be past his obtaining.
What exactly does all this mean? For Wayne Rooney supporters, it may start to feel like the end. A player who is not as skilled in midfield as world class midfielders, and a player who is not quite as sharp as top class strikers is often going to find himself on the bench at big clubs.
BUT, he is undeniably world class. What the hell is going on?
Big Sam Allardyce has just come out recently saying Rooney will play solely as a striker for England. But England are far from world class, as they field too many Tottenham players.
At Manchester United, he will struggle to find a place once Henrik Mkhitaryan begins to play normally. Look at the Armenians heat map from the Hull game.
This is a lot to say about a player who arguably is past his prime and seems to be getting phased out at his club, but for me the nostalgia of Wayne Rooney is worthy of note. This is a player who represented the bright future of English football, and was supposed to return his country to glory. He has not been a failure by any stretch of imagination, but he has to be worried about his future in the sport with the transition to position-less and dynamic midfield roles being combined with pressing systems that would make his hair fall back out.
I like Wayne Rooney, and I am confused as to what the future holds. I just wanted to get this up to keep you all thinking about the way Jose Mourinho has been treating the talisman of the club. This could be an extrmely interesting plot line to follow throughout the season and into the future, as Jose and Wayne probably won’t always see eye-t0-eye.
We love you Wayne, at least I do. Just don’t go scoring against Arsenal anymore. Here is his first career senior-side goal, scored at the age of 15. England’s great hope, Wayne Rooney.
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