Wayne Rooney celebrates with Ander Herrera having scored a hattrick against Club Brugge
Yes, the white Pele has once again answered his critics. Wayne Rooney helped Manchester United to juggernaut past the helpless Club Brugge in some style to qualify for the Champions League. We now know that Rooney and company are in Group B and will do battle with PSV Eindhoven, CSKA Moscow and German side Wolfsburg – a much more challenging proposition than the qualifying match posed. Rooney is usually very quick to be criticised when he is below par – and it is fair to say that his early season form didn’t look as if he would surpass the 249 goals set by Bobby Charlton and become the club’s top goalscorer of all time.
Fast forward two weeks and he is only 17 goals off hitting 250 for the club; an absolutely monumental achieve. So was the criticism just and what heights can Wayne Rooney reach this season?
The Aston Villa game…
Lets be honest, you’d have a go at your mate Dave, hungover on a stag do playing football the Saturday after the night before if he put in a performance like that. The old favourite of “second touch was a tackle” was very true as Rooney bludgeoned his way through the ninety minutes. His movement, shooting and passing range was as if he was being controlled by a higher power – playing FIFA on the PS4 for the first time and not knowing what each of the buttons do. He was that bad and should have been criticised for his performance. This of course doesn’t mean he is on the way out, nor does this mean his powers are fading.
Rooney has actually scored more goals against Aston Villa than against any other opposition for United. He is a notorious slow starter and was exceptionally poor at the start of 2010/11, albeit having been rushed back from injury too soon following the injury he picked up against Bayern Munich the season before and personal issues. But he was then capable of producing one of the greatest goals Old Trafford had ever seen – that bicycle kick against Manchester City. That season was a turning point for United fans towards Rooney and his flirtation with a potential move to City.
When Rooney retires we’ll all remember that volley against Newcastle United in 2005, the hat trick against Fenerbahce and that ridiculous goal against West Ham. But that transfer request and the questioning of the club’s ambition and lack of quality within the playing squad hit home hard. This is why some fans are quick to judge when the United skipper has a stinker of a performance, as he did in the midlands two Fridays ago.
Breaking goal scoring records…
His hat trick against Club Brugge answered all of those critics who had questions why he hadn’t hit the back of the net for United in the previous 878 minutes of football. Every player has goal droughts and Rooney marked his return to form in some style. He could had a fourth had Javier Hernandez’s hadn’t tried to impersonate John Terry’s penalty in Moscow – but his overall performance was impressive following a stark improvement in the Newcastle game.
Rooney is closing in on Denis Law, who has been in at number two for well over forty years now. His is five off 237 and a single goal away from matching Law’s league scoring record – which he could surpass against Swansea City on Sunday. If he has a good Champions League season (his best was five goals in 2009/10), he could get up surpass Fernando Morientes in the all time European Cup/Champions League goalscoring charts – but will surely not start to challenge the elite of Müller and Puskas who are on the cusp of top ten.
For Rooney’s goal scoring exploits, it is fair to say that his Champions League goals (in the real tournament and not in qualifying) aren’t what they should be as he is level with Ryan Giggs on 29 goals. Karim Benzema, Didier Drogba and Filippo Inzaghi are all way ahead, whilst the epic battle between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi for ultimate supremacy rages on at the top of the footballing Parthenon.
What next for Rooney…
There was a famous exchange between Rooney and Sir Alex Ferguson at the time of that transfer request regarding Mesut Ozil. The now Arsenal playmaker was one of the stars of the World Cup and was one of Europe’s hottest properties when at Werder Bremen. United fans, along with Rooney, were urging the manager to sign the German star, but were left bewildered when Bebe signed for the club instead. Ferguson released this information in his autobiography and gave an insight into the relationship between the pair. Of course the manager cannot be told what to do by a player, regarding of importance, but it was clear that Rooney wanted to have an influence and a say over who the club should sign.
Rooney was 24 years old then and as he approached his 30th birthday, he may have matured a little bit to ensure he gets his point across in a more convincing way. Louis van Gaal is always full of praise for his captain and although, like Ferguson, is extremely headstrong he could look to seek council with the skipper on the suitability of players to come in before the transfer window shuts. Rooney will of course be concerned at the amount of money Manchester City will have spent when the window slams shut. Raheem Sterling went for £49million, whilst it looks as if Kevin De Bruyne will sign for £58million by September 1st. With United losing Angel Di Maria to PSG there needs to be some attacking talent added to the squad.
With the David De Gea situation aside, this United squad is in a very decent shape with some great signings in the summer combined with the maturing Luke Shaw, Adnan Januzaj and Chris Smalling. If United can manage to keep De Gea for another season and if he produces his form of last season, Louis van Gaal has a very strong first Xi. However, the addition of an attacking superstar would put United on the next level and ensure there will be a title charge. He may have tainted his relationship in 2010 with the fans that once adored him, but Rooney is a class act of a player with a astute footballing brain. This season could well be the best of the lot for Rooney personally, if he manages to break all club goal scoring records and helps the club to the title as captain. If he is to do that, United need another star alongside him and I’m sure Rooney will inform van Gaal of that.