Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney is starting to play some of the best football of his career just in time for the title run-in in the English Premier League. After scoring 34 goals in all competitions last season, Rooney started this season off with the worst form of his career. Despite the slow start, Rooney is now emerging as a more complete player.
Rooney struggled at the start of the season both on and off the pitch. On the field, Rooney was bothered by an ankle injury that he had picked up in March and never fully recovered from. Off the field, Rooney could not keep his name out of the tabloids, being involved in a nasty contract dispute, as well as stories about his personal life.
Rooney was eventually shipped off to the Nike headquarters in Oregon to help his ankle recover. When he returned, he was still lacking the goal scoring form that electrified him a year ago.
While Rooney has struggled to regain his goalscoring form, he has not let it beat him. Instead, Rooney has used this season to re-invent himself as a player, becoming a more complete playmaker, rather then just a goalscorer. Several times this season, Rooney has passed up on shots that he would have taken in the past, in favor of looking to set up a teammate.
With other talent in place at United, Rooney has turned himself into a provider for the other stars at United. Rooney has 11 assists in the Premier League this season, just two behind club leader Nani.
Is Wayne Rooney better as an out and out goalscorer or an all-around playmaker?
The remarkable thing about the turnaround has been Rooney's attitude throughout the entire season. Rooney has shown tremendous willingness to transition from the guy who scores the goals to the guy who creates them.
Rooney is still one of the major reasons that United currently sit at the top of the table in the Premier League. Despite his lack of goals, he is still the engine that keeps United running.
The change in Rooney's game has allowed for the break though of Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov. While it took the Bulgarian a while to settle in at Old Trafford, Berbatov is now enjoying his best season in a United shirt. While Rooney hasn't assisted on every one of Berbatov's goals, Berbatov's success this season, is due in large part to Rooney.
Berbatov currently leads all goal scorers in the Premier League with 20 goals this season. Rooney's preseance on the field has forced defenders to focus in on him, making sure they know what he is up to at all time. The increased attention has allowed Berbatov to do what he does best, get into open spaces and be able to finish.
Don't believe me? 18 of Berbatov's 20 goals this season have come with Rooney on the pitch. The two that Rooney was not on the field for came against Blackpool after Rooney had been subbed off.
While Rooney has focused on providing for his teammates this season, he has been slowly but surely been getting back onto form. With the great form of Berbatov, and the emergence of Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez, Rooney has been under less pressure to score goals.
As Rooney developed his other skills, he began regaining his goalscoring form when we least expected it. It started with his tremendous bicycle kick against Manchester City that gave United a crucial 2-1 win. The goal reminded everyone that while Rooney may be struggling this season, he is still incredibly talented.
Rooney has once again settled into a new role with United, as he has recently been playing as an attacking midfielder, usually behind Javier Hernandez. The move has helped both players, with Hernandez scoring five goals in United's last six games, with Rooney directly assisting on both of them.
In his new role, Rooney is turning himself into a complete player. He has shown that he still has the talent that he had when he is young, he is just using it differently. He is beginning to score more goals as of late, showing signs that he is re-emerging as the player we all thought he could be.