Robin Van Persie’s goals since his arrival at Old Trafford have taken the limelight off of Wayne Rooney’s impact on Manchester United’s performances.
Game after game, the Dutchman’s strikes have galvanised his cohorts, and he is the main reason why United currently hold a 12-point lead over their cross-city rivals.
Of course, he hasn’t done it by himself. David de Gea, Jonny Evans, Tom Cleverly, Michael Carrick and Javier Hernandez have particularly excelled and improved during the campaign, but every Red Devils fan’s favorite Scouser has failed to draw the acclaim of previous years.
This is despite the fact that he has scored integral goals against Fulham, Southampton and Manchester City, after overcoming two lengthy spells out injured, between August and September and throughout January, to help lead United to the precipice of glory.
Rooney’s importance to Alex Ferguson’s side is still incomparable, so here are five reasons why his return to Manchester United‘s starting eleven could lead the Scot to a second treble.
Wazza is still at the relatively young age of 27 and can expect to truly hit his prime over the next two or three seasons.
However, despite his infancy, Rooney has already amassed an impressive list of honours during his time at Old Trafford, which includes four Premier League titles, two League Cups, and one Champions League triumph.
These successes have turned Rooney into one of the most experienced players on United’s roster, and his knowledge and guidance through the latter stages of this season will help to assist the likes of Phil Jones, Cleverley, De Gea, and even Van Persie, each of whom are yet to win the Premier League.
Also, with his steely and aggressive determination, Rooney has followed in the footsteps of Bryan Robson and Roy Keane to become United’s impassioned warrior on the pitch, and he is now the man that Ferguson trusts will drag United to victory even when they’re not playing well.
It’s easy to forget just how much of an impact Rooney made at the start of his career.
His goal against Arsenal for Everton, his performances at Euro 2004 and his debut hat trick against Fenerbahce for United were all unforgettable feats of skill and athleticism that were achieved before he had even reached his 19th birthday.
However, as his time at Old Trafford has progressed, he has become more of a team player, coming deeper to request the ball from defenders and holding midfielders, selflessly spreading the play across the pitch from one wide area to the next, and linking up splendidly with his fellow attackers, all for the good of the team.
This year especially, when he has started just behind the frontman, Rooney has connected telepathically with his striking partner, whether it has been Hernandez, Van Persie or Danny Welbeck, and continues to be United’s main source of inspiration for unlocking niggly defences.
During Rooney’s spell at United, he has been forced to play second fiddle to the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Van Persie as United’s main source of attacking inspiration.
Instead, he has often been deployed in more reserved roles for integral contests, which have nullified his influence.
At various times he has been positioned as an out-and-out striker, an attacking midfielder, a right winger, a left winger, a holding midfield and even as a right back.
The debate continues to rage over whether constantly moving Rooney across the park is good for his career, but for the closing months of the season, his ability to excel in each of these roles will prove to be a godsend for Ferguson.
Injuries will soon come into the equation, and Rooney’s positional discipline will allow him to be placed out of his comfort zone, where he can still play a part for the team.
However, do you think it’s about time Rooney was used as United’s talisman in big games again? He proved against Arsenal and AC Milan in 2009/10 that he is one for the occasion.
A constant source of frustration for United fans over Rooney’s opening years at the club was the forward’s prevalence for only scoring goals in dribs and drabs.
He would go five games without a strike, and then pop up with 10 in 10 matches, before then going through a drought again.
However since his most consistent spell for the Red Devils in 2009/2010, when he became the focal point of United’s attack, and forgetting his barren year of 2010/2011 when his off-the-field excursions distracted him, Rooney has proven that he can remain in goal-scoring form for the side throughout an entire season.
Rooney has never looked more confident in front of goal than he does at the moment, and his improved technique, vision and precision have seen him notch four goals in five starts since his comeback from injury against Tottenham in mid-January.
When he starts games, he is always dangerous. Just don’t let him anywhere near the penalties.
Manchester United’s Treble victory in 1999 came in the face of adversity, as Sir Alex Ferguson’s men wrestled victory from the jaws of defeat against Liverpool, Tottenham, Juventus and Munich to secure the club’s finest triumph.
For this to be achieved, an unerring confidence and calmness was needed in even the most frenetic of circumstances.
Roy Keane had it. Jaap Stam had it. Peter Schmeichel had it. Ole Gunnar Solksjaer had it. And now Wayne Rooney also possesses this Zen-like quality in spades.
Even when United are struggling, he continues to show deft touches and keep his cool to lead the team forward, and even though he can have his off days, games against Everton and Swansea this season immediately spring to mind, when he is in top form and on song, he is practically unplayable.