Following the departures of Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao, Manchester United fans have been pleading the club to sign a striker who can score week in, week out. Even manager Louis van Gaal bemoaned the club “don’t have a striker who scores 20 goals in the season” last February. Though, not to worry LVG, you already have a striker who can score 30.
Wayne Rooney, soon to be Manchester United and England top goalscorer, has suffered much criticism throughout his career, both off and on the pitch. On the pitch, the criticism usually revolves around his finishing, or perceived lack thereof.
Despite the fact he’s averaged 20.9 goals per season at United, and scored 30+ goals in 2 out of the last 3 seasons he’s made 30 appearances in, Rooney is seldom labeled as a 20-30 goal a season man.
Why is this?
The answer is rooted in his inconsistency. From the 2004/05 season onward, Rooney has scored: 17, 19, 23, 18, 20, 34, 16, 34, 16, 19, 14. As you can see, Rooney’s tally is by no means inconsistent, but his ability to score 20 or 30 goals in a season is. This pattern is exemplified from 2009/10-2011/12, where Rooney scores 34 goals, 16 goals, 34 goals, 16 goals.
So, can Rooney score 30+ goals this season?
As widespread media reports, an early preseason lineup, and a lack of strikers have all but confirmed, Wayne Rooney will play as United’s sole striker this season. This provoked a thought in yours truly, “when was the last time Rooney lead the line?” Not played off another striker, in more of a number 10 capacity, but played as a true striker, leading the line.
When Rooney joined the club in 2004, he played in behind Ruud van Nistelrooy, then in a rotating front three with Ronaldo and Giggs, then in behind Tevez, then Berbatov, Hernandez, Welbeck, and then Van Persie, before being utilized even deeper for much of last season. It occurred to me that Wayne Rooney has never spent an entire season at striker for Manchester United. He’s always played in the hole, as a number 10, in behind, or whichever way you wish to word it.
Obviously, the further back a player is, the harder it is for them to score. Yet, people have still viewed Rooney’s goalscoring record under the guise he was a striker, but he wasn’t, he was playing as an attacking midfielder.
Once accounted for, the fact that he’s averaged over 20 goals a season, scoring 34 twice, is truly staggering. He hasn’t been United’s Alan Shearer; he’s been their Frank Lampard.
Playing in the number 10 role, Rooney has been heavily tasked with creating. It’s always been “Rooney, you get the ball to…”, not “you get the ball to Rooney”.
Whilst United have boasted some truly magnificent midfields in the past 11 years, who provided stupendous service to the striker, Rooney has been a benefactor to these midfields much more than a beneficiary.
Now, in his 12th season at Manchester United, Wayne Rooney is set to lead the line for the very first time, and the service is better than ever.
Not since ’99 have United housed a midfield with so much talent. Schweinsteiger, Schneiderlin, Carrick, Herrera, Mata, Depay, in addition the likely arrival of Pedro and others, make this Manchester United midfield the most talented since Rooney joined the club in 2004.
I’m no PhD in addition, but if add that kind of service to a man who scores 20 when in midfield, I think you get 30.