Wayne Rooney's Not a Midfielder (but There Was More to Last Season's Poor Form)
Wayne Rooney got one thing right during his England press conference on Tuesday—he's no midfielder.
Admittedly, he can do the job when his team is hanging on in the last 10 minutes. But his turn of pace, bustling strength and ability to finish inside or outside the penalty area with his head or feet are better suited to playing with No. 10 on his back.
This week, he spoke like a man tired of being shunted around.
He's been scoring goals—a lot of goals—since starting out in Liverpool's junior leagues. But in nine years at Old Trafford he's often had to play second fiddle.
First it was Ruud van Nistelrooy, then Cristiano Ronaldo. Last season, it was Robin van Persie.
His flexibility and work-rate made it easy for Sir Alex Ferguson to accommodate him elsewhere. With Ronaldo in the team for Champions League finals in 2008 and 2009, Rooney played out wide.
It was the same story in United's biggest game last season against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu. Van Persie played as a lone frontman, with Rooney given a job to do on the left.
But for Rooney to blame a disappointing season on being played out of position misses a key point. That is, last season, whether as a striker or a midfielder, he wasn't at his best.
Even with Van Persie in the squad, he only played in midfield a handful of times. His form wasn't helped by injuries. He missed four games at the beginning of the season because of a gashed thigh. And he was absent for five games over Christmas nursing a knee injury.
But even playing in his favoured position, there were some poor performances.
Against Swansea at the Liberty Stadium in December, Rooney was partnered with Van Persie, while Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia providing the ammunition.
But he put in one of his worst displays in a United shirt, only put of his misery when he was hauled off in the second half.
This season, Rooney is getting back to his best. But it's not just because David Moyes has played him as a striker.
Apart from sitting out against Liverpool and Shakhtar Donetsk with injury, he's had a run of games. And he's benefitting, with five goals in seven starts.
Whether it's because he's been largely injury free, working under a new manager or just because he's loving football again, Rooney is performing much better than he did last season.
Maybe last season was just a blip. Sometimes, it's as simple as that.
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