I’ve had about 9 million different ideas for entries over the course of this year about Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit from Manchester United to greener pastures of Real Madrid. However every time I thought of one, I would forget to write it, and usually that weekend United would either win big, or get killed and prove whatever point I was going to make wrong. But now as the season is winding down and the title race is incredibly tight I’m ready to bang this out.
The media have begun to fall in love with a certain idea about this post-Ronaldo season for United. There seems to be an overwhelming number of people who are writing about how since Ronaldo left Wayne Rooney has emerged as United’s most valuable player. While yes this is true, that Rooney is having his best season ever and is absolutely incredible, he is not JUST emerging as United’s most valuable player. The truth is, Rooney always has been the heart and soul of that team.
I could swear that I wrote about this topic a few years ago, but looking through my disappointingly small archives I discovered apparently I haven’t. Wayne Rooney is the ultimate team player, they say he doesn’t care what position he has to play, but that he’ll be happy if he just gets to go on the pitch and kick a ball around for 90 minutes. This became evident when Critiano Ronaldo emerged as the worlds best player, often moving to the center of the field, and exiling Rooney down the left flank.
When Ronaldo left this year it was announced Rooney would go back to his central role. Many pundits wondered how United would cope without Ronaldo, but United fans knew that putting Rooney back in the middle was almost like bringing in a whole new player. We were going to see a completely new Wayne Rooney this year. I’ve always known how potent Rooney was in the middle; I never understood why they exiled him down the left side. In United’s 2008 European Champions League away match with AS Roma, Rooney played down the left side. For 10 minutes Sir Alex Ferguson moved him back to the middle. It took Rooney just two minutes to score after that switch, and moving him back out to the left, perplexing, followed it.
In the first post-Ronaldo year at Old Trafford, many people believe United are TOO dependent on Rooney. There defiantly is some truth to the statement. In the Champions League and Premier League this season Rooney has only not started in 3 matches. Once because of a knee injury, once because he just had a child, and once just to give him rest. In two of those matches United played with only 1 striker, Dimitar Berbatov, who excelled at showing the world that we overpaid for him, and that he cannot function as the only striker on the pitch. We did manage to win both games 1-0. The other match, a home tie against CSKA Moscow, Fergie was forced to bring on Rooney with 30 minutes to play, and Rooney helped ignite a comeback earning a 3-3 draw. Most recently, Rooney was rested against Aston Villa in the Carling Cup final. That rest lasted 30 minutes before Rooney had to replace injured Michael Owen, and of course save the day by scoring the winner.
This all of course comes in light just after witnessing this weekend’s match, where Rooney was forced to miss the match due to an injury. United played with only Berbatov up front. The result was a fail of epic proportions. It took United a long time to learn how to play with Rooney as the only striker, they finally have gotten the hang of it, but in truth only Rooney can make it work. The team mounted relatively no attack from their wingers and Berbatov, who are essential in this formation. Deploying this formation just helps to show how we wasted our money on Berbatov, and how because of this we lost Carlos Tevez.
What many people fail to see is that Rooney was just as valuable with Ronaldo on the team as he is now. In 2008 Ronaldo scored 42 goals in all competitions. United just kept winning and winning, most of the time with Ronaldo being the only goal scorer of the game. That season Rooney hit a good run of form in October, and again in February, but both times that great run in form was halted by an injury. Furthermore, he also went down injured in the first game of the season. While many said that with his 42 goals Ronaldo was easily the most valuable person United had in the team, there was someone else who made his motor go. Rooney got injured 4 times that season, not once did United ever win the first game that Rooney missed. Rooney was hurt in the first half of the first game of the season. United drew 0-0. He missed the next few games; United would follow the first match with a 1-1 draw, then a 1-0 loss. While they would win the next four games, they would only score 4 goals, all 1-0 wins. As soon as Rooney came back the goals started pouring in. The next time Rooney went down it was followed by a 1-0 loss to Bolton. He would go down again and United followed that with a loss to West Ham.
Rooney has always been the heart and soul of United. While Ronaldo scored the goals, Rooney was the engine that got Ronaldo going. So please, Rooney being United’s most valuable player is nothing new. He always has been.