It’s the time old question, what is Wayne Rooney’s best position? Striker or Number 10? Where does his future lie? It’s a question I have often asked myself over Rooney’s 10 year stay at Old Trafford and I’m still yet to find the answer.
Rooney was signed by Sir Alex Ferguson back in 2004 as one of English footballs brightest prospects. In the ten-and-a-half years that has followed, Wayne Rooney has won almost every major honour available to him, including 5 Premier League titles, 2 League Cups, 1 Champions League and 1 World Club Cup Title.
He has also become England’s highest ever goal scorer whilst hauling himself to within touching distance of Sir Bobby Charlton’s all time Manchester United goalscoring record of 249 goals. (Rooney has 237 at the time of writing)
Rooney’s talent and quality is not in doubt. However we are in a spell of time where United are poor and a lot of criticism has been pointed towards the form of the Englishman’s recent form and contributions.
Throughout his time at United, the 30-year old has been a jack of all trades. His energetic style has seen him be moved around the pitch in a number of positions. Whether it be as the main striker, in behind as the number 10, out on the left or right, or even in Central midfield.
Nobody can agree where Rooney’s best position seems to be. However to me, it always feels like he is always in the way.
As we have said earlier, the qualities of the Evertonian are undoubted. But in recent years he seems to have got a place in the squad on reputation rather than merit.
Lets look at him in the number 9 role for instance, up until this season, he has had Robin van Persie to contend with for the main spot up front. Robin van Persie was simply one of the best strikers to play for the club. Better than Rooney in that Role? I’d say so. This year, Anthony Martial has had a fine start. He is pacey, direct, quick footed, and also an eye for goal. Again, better than Rooney as the #9? At the moment? Yes again.
So if he isn’t the best man for the main strikers role, then how about his supposed best position, playing in behind the striker, the important number 10. This was a role that was highly suited to Rooney’s style in his early career. He had tremendous pace and energy in his game. He linked the midfield to the strikers. But these days he has lost a yard of pace, he doesn’t track back as much, and this is probably as much to do with LVG as it does Rooney.
However, United now play a slower more measured game, and in this system the number 10 position is more suited to a more technically gifted player, someone comfortable with the ball at their feet in tight spaces, the likes of Eden Hazard, Alexis Sanchez, James Rodriguez….Juan Mata. Back in his prime, Rooney, along with the rest of the United side, moved the ball quickly using pace as weapon. In the current United style, the number 10 also needs to move the ball quickly, however, it is not done with pace of players, but the quick movement of the ball itself and accurate, snappy passing.
From someone who watches Rooney frequently, it is obvious to me his passing abilities aren’t good enough, and he also has a disappointing first touch. The likes of Juan Mata and Ander Herrera would be far more suited to United’s style of play, especially with the Frenchman Anthony Martial ahead.
Rooney has often had the benefit of the doubt and kept his place in this role as its often been said that it his best. Sadly, what this has meant is that players like Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, and Shinji Kagawa in the past, have been shoved out of the way and played in positions less suited to them. It’s surely time to have the right player in the right position in the right system?
So if Rooney isn’t good enough for number 9 or 10, where does he fit in? Central midfield has been mooted by a few, but again, as for the same reason I have stated above, I don’t think this is a possibility either. His long ball ability is fantastic, however his short passing as well as his first touch is often atrocious. Not the kind of abilities needed in a modern day central midfielder, especially in a possession based side.
All in all, Rooney is often the problem, but rarely the solution to United’s problems. He is being selected on his reputation, rather than his current form, whilst other players get dropped or played out of position without reason whilst playing well to accomodate Rooney.
Rooney needs to be dropped, rediscover his form and earn his place back in the side. He is not a finished player but he is a player with a lot of miles on the clock. His high energy style of his youthful days will have taken their toll on his body. He should improve several aspects to his game and work his way back to form and fitness, where he can them go on to claim even more honours in his career at United. In what position on the field that will be, it remains to be seen.
What do you think Rooneys position is? Do you think he should be dropped, or does he deserve more time to prove his class? Let us know your thoughts in the comments box below.