Like his manager, Wayne Rooney is a publicly revered sportsman, generally beyond reproach from the English media.
Despite not being the best player in the England side next to a Gerrard or Lampard, he is the most marketable, and as such, World Cup aspirations are almost solely entrusted upon his swarthy shoulders.
Rooney’s quality is often described in intangible terms. But, the heart and drive which fulfill his forced legend are often exaggerated in masking of his attacking inefficiencies. Never able to beat defenders, and too inept to create space for himself, Rooney is ineffective when off-form or exhausted.
Such is now the case. He has started every United premiership match this season, and it shows.
Lately, besides not threatening defenses at all, the Englishman doesn’t even have the engine upon which his numerous proponents can hang their hats. At least when he wasn’t passing, dribbling, or shooting well, he would track back and get stuck in, giving reason behind the repetitive chants of his name.
But, currently, a knackered Rooney can do little to achieve space or use it. Even his passing—his supposed offensive hallmark—has been askew in his last few appearances.
This is compounded by a natural inability to use skill or trickery to beat defenders, which is compounded further by a general disinclination to dribble to his left. Despite having a strong (if not especially accurate) shot, ultimately, what you have is an overrated, overused striker.
It's important to remember there hasn't been an offseason yet in Rooney's reign at United where he wasn't vicariously expected to evolve into the cabal of footballing elite.
For two seasons prior, Rooney often partnered Carlos Tevez, a player very smilar to himself. Each season, Tevez arguably outplayed the Englishman. Rooney started this season well, partnering splendidly with Dimitar Berbatov, with pundits expecting the Englishman's evolution into the world-class in the Post-Ronaldo era.
Halfway through another season, it remains a hope unrealized.
For some reason, his manager is inclined to play him every match, without any heed to mental or physical exhaustion. Instead of pairing Owen, Macheda, or Wellbeck with the necessary Berbatov, Ferguson chooses instead to employ Rooney awkwardly with the aforementioned three, instead of granting an occasional, needed break.
With a cluttered holiday fixture list forthcoming, the perfect time for a Rooney rest may have come and gone, but the opportunity remains rife for Ferguson to remind Rooney that he is not irreplaceable, and must continue to work in training to achieve his growth, without featuring perfunctorily every match.
When players like Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe, Gabriel Agbhonlahor, and Bobby Zamora are proving more creative, effective, and predatory in the top flight than Rooney, a rest and reapplication are surely required for the statured English talisman.
If complacency weren't a feature of Ferguson himself, perhaps Rooney would be employed in a role he naturally fits: as a central midfielder, where his passing, strength, engine, and tendency to drop into the pocket to instigate play would be better utilized.
Rooney has potential. But his inability to evolve into a more balanced player, plugging the holes in his incomplete arsenal, means his growth has been deliberate and ordinary, instead of meteoric.
He watched Ronaldo surpass him in almost every category. Then he watched him leave.
Yet Rooney remains. And he remains just Rooney; instead of something more he could have been, he's becoming something less; complacent a world star, never to become world-class.