Wayne Rooney: The Time Has Come To Deliver

Chris DowdingCorrespondent IAugust 21, 2008

Let us not beat around the bush, Wayne Rooney is already the most talented English player of his generation. It seems like there is nothing he cannot do, and his willingness to track back, defend and generally put in a good shift for his team can only be met with admiration.

His appreciation for helping his team in defence and attack is one of Rooney's greatest assets. It is also, along with his penchant for animated discussions with match officials, his major failing.

It is in Rooney's nature to want to be involved in every aspect of play, in every area of the pitch, and you feel that he gets as much satisfaction from it as he does from thundering in a first time volley from 25 yards. While this is invaluable to Manchester United and England, he needs to be a more selfish player.

His goal return for United has always been consistent, his contribution never in question. But he is capable of so much more.

The way Manchester United currently line up (with a fully fit side) see Rooney, Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo constantly swap positions, confusing the opposition and making space for each other. While each player excels in this endeavour, with an almost telepathic understanding of where their teammates are, this is a waste of Rooney's sublime talents.

Rooney is the closest Manchester United and England have to a classic "No. 10", a player who can sit between the midfield and attack and create. While Carlos Tevez is an exceptional player he, like Rooney, enjoys dropping deep and participating in play in midfield.

This leaves Rooney up front on his own, and there are spells in matches when he seems to be on the periphery of events. Unplanned interruptions through injury have also hampered his progress.

The search for a recognised striker, someone who will lead the line, is on-going at Old Trafford. Dimitar Berbatov seems to be the likely option, with Ajax's Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Roque Santa Cruz of Blackburn also in the frame.

Such a signing would, of course, benefit the team as a unit. But the main beneficiary would be Wayne Rooney.

An out-and-out striker like the ones mentioned above would afford Rooney the opportunity to play where many feel is his favoured position—in the "hole". This would force the opposition into a dilemma, do they bring a defender out to mark him, or sacrifice a man from midfield to keep an eye on him?

It is no coincidence that some of Rooney's best performances have come when his talents have been allied with a striker who can win the ball in the air and hold it up. When Rooney has been positioned just off a striker such as Ruud van Nistelrooy, Louis Saha or for a brief period, Henrik Larsson, he has played his best football—because of the service such players provide.

When Rooney finds himself on the edge of the box, with options to the side and in front, that's when the fun begins. He has always had games where he sits deep and creates, and games where he finishes what his team mates have started. But when Rooney puts both of those facets of his game together, he's virtually unplayable.

With the support for Cristiano Ronaldo among the Old Trafford faithful waning,  and a new strike partner in the offing, this could be the season where Rooney really begins to  fulfil the promise he has shown for the last five years.

In terms of his career, he's not even got out of third gear yet. Watch the sparks fly when he does.

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