Wayne Rooney is finished.
Finished as a world class player, finished as a talisman, and finished as a striker who is good enough for Manchester United. At the moment, United may not be what it was, but it is still too good for the severely diminished Rooney.
Here is a full list of Rooney’s abilities that are currently at a world class level:
Here is a full list of Rooney’s abilities that are currently at a level so woeful that it should embarrass both him and his employers:
- ball control
Sadly for United, Rooney is still probably the best striker at the club, which is a damning indictment of Louis van Gaal and Ed Woodward. Rooney has been unquestionably crap for at least half of each season going back several years. Despite this, he now has the least competition for places of his entire club career, with his standing further strengthened by his role as captain. The alternatives to Rooney are a largely untested teenager, another largely untested teenager, and a midfielder that is hilariously bad at everything except being tall and elbowy.
There are times when you can see the old Wayne—the fearless running, the powerful finishing, the delightful bits of skill. But those times are when you’re watching highlight reels on YouTube, likely set to some horrible music.
If you’re watching the games, you see the real Wayne. The Wayne of 2015. A shell of a player who is ruining every good attacking move that his team manages to put together, and blowing out of his ass after an hour.
The best version of Wayne Rooney that we’ll ever see is so long gone that videos of it can’t even be found in high definition.
The favorite pastime of Rooney apologists (Roopologists?) is to find a scapegoat for the player’s failure in anyone and anything but the player himself. He hasn’t been given enough freedom. He hasn’t been given enough structure. Sir Alex Ferguson hindered his development by playing him in too many different positions. During what should have been his peak years, the talent level around him for club and country was subpar. He’s been playing top level soccer for almost 15 years, so a physical decline was/is inevitable, even if he’s still just 30.
All of these caveats have merit. The fact that Rooney has been such a disappointment in recent years is not totally his fault. But none of these contributing factors to his fall from grace change the fact that he is shit at his job. Speedier and more creative players around him will only highlight his lack of both qualities.
In both the positions that most argue to be his best, he lacks the quality to shine. As a No. 9, he doesn’t have the pace or (as of the last two to three years) the finishing to effectively lead the line. As a No. 10, he lacks the vision (every problem can’t be solved by a slow -ball out to the wing, you daft sod) and the first touch to be even be passably good there. Have you seen Rooney’s first touch? It’s unpredictable. The ball will reliably bounce three feet off of him, but you can never tell in which direction.
As always, some perspective is needed. Rooney may be a spent force now, but he probably still has enough left to finish this season as the all-time top scorer for both club and country. He needs fewer than than 20 goals to surpass Sir Bobby Charlton’s record for United, and just a couple to surpass his record for England. His medal haul at club level puts him in elite company. Even if he were to suddenly retire at the end of this season (you can live in hope, United fans!), he would have had a remarkable career.
But, as Roy Keane once said of Ryan Giggs—in that devastatingly dismissive way of his—having a great career doesn’t mean you’re a great player. Wayne Rooney is not a great player. He was once, but that was a long time ago.
United, which cares more about attracting sponsors than it does about winning trophies, continues to try tricking us into believing that Rooney is still good. Ferguson was enough of a bastard and a legend to kick Rooney out of the club, but he left before he could do the deed. David Moyes clearly didn’t have the spine or the clout to get rid of him. As for Louis van Gaal, Rooney’s indulgence is one of the Dutchman’s blind spots, along with playing attractive soccer and not alienating world class goalkeepers.
As things stand, it would take a major injury or lengthy ban to spare us the sight of Rooney’s useless and considerably plump ass in a United uniform every matchday. And even then, it is unlikely that the options currently available to deputize for him are good enough to keep him out of the team.
So we’re stuck with him—a reality that is either maddening, depressing, or hilarious, depending on what you think about a supposed super club fielding a decidedly un-super star.