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Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Wayne Rooney - The most complete footballer on the planet

According to some people, Wayne Rooney is having a bad season. He has 14 goals and 12 assists, he has a better minutes-to-goal/assist ratio than he did last season, where he scored 34 goals in 44 games, and he has been a vital cog Manchester United's title run-in and European charge.

Rooney has been superb in recent weeks, I'd go as far to say that he's produced the best football on the planet in the last month, even better than the magical Lionel Messi or the mesmeric Cristiano Ronaldo.

They are three players who you cannot compare because they're all too different. What sets Rooney apart are his defensive qualities. It's a part of his game that perhaps explains the reason why he is rarely mentioned as being the best player on the planet.

Others prefer the magic of Messi or the sheer brilliance of Ronaldo. Rooney, though, is a natural footballer. You could put him in any position of the pitch and he'd be good enough to play at the highest level. Could you do this with Ronaldo or Messi? Never.

In my view, Rooney has been more influential in United's season this year than last. He has added an extra-dimension with his ability to drop deep and play the free role. His partnership with Hernandez has been a pleasure to watch because they work perfectly together and compliment each other like a jigsaw puzzle.

Rooney's return to top form has been largely due to his re-poisitioning and partnership with Hernandez, which has the potential to become the most feared attacking threat in the world.

They have such a great understanding. Both work hard and give everything to the team, meaning they are always working hard for each other and rarely do they find themselves on the wrong wavelength. Hernandez is similar to Owen in many ways, except he's stronger and better in the air, something which plays into Rooney's hands.

His role of playing behind Hernandez suits Rooney down to the ground. It allows him to run riot and play where he likes. He can express himself, picking up the ball from deep and driving at the defence or producing a raking ball. His passing ability is hardly ever talked about despite it being world class.

His vision is a freak of nature. He can spot and then produce the most wonderful pass with just a quick glance. His performance in the Champions League first leg at Schalke was magnificent. Time and time again he picked the ball up in between the midfield and Hernandez and picked out an exquisite ball to either Antonio Valencia or Hernandez.

The first goal was all Rooney's making. He collected the ball midway through the Schalke half, powered towards the defence with intent before side-stepping an opponent and sliding in a sublime pass to Ryan Giggs who finished. And then, just two minutes later, he showed the other part of his game. His movement and finishing. Hernandez and Rooney linked up well which resulted in Rooney receiving the ball in space in the penalty area and cooly finishing into the bottom corner.

In just these two instances you can understand just how a complete and wonderful player he is. He has a wonderful football brain as well, always capable of picking out the right pass or taking the right option.

He seems to be happier in recent weeks too. The enjoyment and and satisfaction of playing football is back, it's something which plays a big role in how well Rooney performs. He loves the game of football but he has a very short fuse and recent events in his life has taken all the fun out of his football. Now that's it's back, the world should fear Wayne Rooney.

The enjoyment is back in Wayne Rooney's football. He produces a rare smile before going to congratulate the supplier for the second goal in United's victory over Schalke.

The two chalkboards below highlight perfectly how Rooney's role has changed from last season to this and how it benefits the team more. Last year, Rooney was the main striker. He scored plenty of goals but in doing so the team suffered as a lot of his other attributes went to waste. Scoring goals was obviously key to the team but this season he has assisted and created many more goals for other players. As a result the team has benefited as a whole.

On the left you see Rooney's passing from the home win over Everton last week. You can see that he made a lot of passes, this was because he picked the ball up from deep and used his superb vision and technique to pick out a pass. On the right is United's home win over West Ham last season. In this game Rooney made a measly 23 passes compared to the 74 he made against Everton, showing the difference from last season to this.

Rooney in recent months has played in the position where United have struggled for quality over the past 18 months. The position behind the strikers where you link up play between the midfield and attack. These players are usually terrific passers with an immaculate first touch as well as a goalscoring ability. Rooney in a nutshell. This is what United lacked last season.

Of course, the arrival of Hernandez has made a massive difference. Not only are the Mexican's goals crucial but his positioning and the runs he makes allows Rooney to drop deeper and play in that role where more can be made of his ability. Here, he can pull the strings and play the defence splitting passes, a skill which very few players in the world possess.

His goal tally shouldn't be affected by this role either. It makes him even more dangerous when he's making them late, threatening runs into the penalty area, making it almost impossible to pick him up.

Add the touches of brilliance to his season and you really begin to understand the value of Rooney. The glorious overhead kick winner against rivals Manchester City was one but the magical hat-trick against West Ham was even better. The one thing that Rooney cannot be accused of choking in the big games. He always stands up and produces his best when the team most need it.

Rooney's displaying his brilliance with a glorious overhead kick to win the Manchester derby in February. 

What else that has to be admired about Rooney is his willingness to defend and help out his teammates. Almost every time he loses the ball, Rooney will chase back and be determined to win it back. The desire and hunger of the man cannot be questioned, however this can sometimes be mistaken for arrogance or petulance.

He's hardly a clean character, always seeming to be in the headlines for one thing or another but the main reason for this is not his anger or hate, but his desire and desperation to impress and play well. He easily gets frustrated, it's not a bad thing to have because without it he wouldn't be the same player.

Rooney is the most complete player of his generation. Sublime to watch and a managers dream. He's everywhere on the pitch, and could probably play in any position you want. He gives everything to the team for every minute of every game. He may not score as many as Ronaldo or Messi but if I had a choice between the three, I'd pick Wayne Rooney every single time.

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