In a season of suffering for Manchester United fans, one of their heroes that has maintained a semblance of good form has been Wayne Rooney, but he must start scoring more regularly if United are going to make any kind of impact on the race for fourth in the Premier League.
The 28-year-old enjoyed a purple patch earlier in the season, scoring seven goals in eight games over September and October, but now has just one in his last nine Premier League appearances. which is not enough for a man of his calibre.
Whilst the England striker has not been in the hottest goalscoring form of his career, he has been as creative as ever before.
The 14 assists in all competitions this campaign has already equalled his best for a whole season in a Manchester United shirt. Undoubtedly others are certainly benefitting from his performances, even if he is not basking in the glory of them.
The ability to create for his teammates has been all the more crucial this year as the rest of the squad has roundly failed to do so. Rooney has nine assists in the Premier League and the closest United players behind him are Patrice Evra and Juan Mata, who have three (with the Spaniard doing so in just four games).
The arrival of the Mata to work alongside Rooney as an attacking force could well be key to the unlocking of United’s potential under David Moyes. In just four games Mata has created as many goals as anyone except Rooney. If the two can continue to work opportunities for others and each other, then a more regular flow of goals will surely follow.
Mata will need time to completely find his feet in Manchester, and Robin van Persie is still struggling to engage top gear. With these two world-class players not at their best, Rooney must carry the can until they are. Both Van Persie and the new arrival from Chelsea are too good not to decimate teams at some stage; if Rooney can take responsibility until that happens, then United will be a real threat again.
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The importance of Rooney’s displays to the club has been made clear by the record-breaking contract offered to him by the hierarchy at Old Trafford. The deal, as reported by David McDonnell in The Daily Mirror, will make him the highest-paid player in the Premier League at £300,000 per week and involve him becoming the United captain in future.
This level of responsibility suggests a club that is trying not only to hang on to one of their prized assets, but reward him for strong showings and try to get the very best out of him.
David Moyes certainly sees him in the role of leader, as he made clear in a press conference earlier this season:
Do you know what I see more than anything in Wayne? I see leadership. I see somebody who wants to take responsibility for the team. I see somebody who cares for how he plays and how the team plays. More than anything, that is what I see from Wayne.
Rooney's best certainly includes a lot more goals than he is producing currently though. Whilst his assist tally is impressive, he is an international striker and must take more responsibility in finding the back of the net himself when his teammates are failing to.