Wayne Rooney has silenced his critics this season, who said that the Manchester United star did not score enough goals, and that without the wing play of Cristiano Ronaldo, his play would suffer. In fact, quite the opposite has occurred.
Rooney's goal scoring has become prolific this season, currently standing on 39 goals for club and country, and within reach of surpassing Ronaldo's mark of 42, set just a few years ago. The one major difference or course, is that Rooney is doing this without another world class player on the pitch.
Rooney has been the backbone of his team in a season which critics were calling for him to step up his scoring. He has certainly done that. With 26 goals in 29 league games, 2 goals in 3 Carling Cup games, 4 goals in 5 champions league games, and a goal in the Community Shield, Rooney has been nothing less than outstanding.
His international campaign has been equally impressive, leading all of Europe in scoring up until England's qualification, with 4 goals in 4 games in the 2009/2010 portion. He also chipped in 2 goals in 4 games in the friendlies.
Rooney has at times carried United on his back this season, with a Hat Trick performance against Portsmouth, as well as scoring all 4 goals in a 4-0 thumping of Hull. The last second heroics in a victory over Man City in the Carling Cup semi-Final, as well as his late winner coming on as a substitute against Aston Villa in the Final, are examples of how many of his goals have also been meaningful ones.
Then there is his recent dismantling of AC Milan, with two goals in both legs of the round of 16 against the Italian giants.
What sets Rooney apart from other great goalscorers in the world today, however, is that Rooney is not just a great goalscorer, but a great footballer. He has the ability to play the wing, or all alone up front allowing 5 midfielders to patrol the pitch, which has given his manager, Alex Ferguson, many options over the last few years.
Many great goal scorers can score a goal, and yet not be involved in the game in other dimensions. This is where Rooney differs. He is constantly involved in the build up, often for his own goals, with precise passes and great vision he will pick out a streaking winger, or switch the play from one side of the pitch to the other, then burst into space for the return ball. His goal against Arsenal was a prime example of this.
Rooney took the ball with his back to the Arsenal goal, 10 to 15 yards outside his own 18 yard box, turned and feathered a pass between Arsenal players to a streaking Nani up the right wing. Rooney then proceeded to sprint the length of the pitch, flying passed no less than 4 Arsenal players and finding the space between them for a return ball from Nani that was in the back of the net off of Rooney's first touch.
It was an example of what he is, both a great footballer, and a great goalscorer. Rooney plays with the tenacity and grit of a central midfielder, and often will track back to help out defensively when the scoreline calls for it.
This season he has been one of the greatest players in World football, and with 39 goals in 45 starts, 47 games in total, the numbers don't lie. Wayne Rooney is at this point the player most deserving of FIFA's World Player of the Year. There is of course, lots of football to be played, including the World Cup this summer, but at this point, Rooney would get my vote, without any hesitation.