Wayne Rooney is one of the most well-known football players in the world, but it’s fair to say that he has been through a lot in the last calendar year. There was the World Cup disappointment along with issues on and off the pitch. But with all of the turmoil going on, the 2010-2011 season turned out to be a fairly successful season for Rooney and Manchester United. The team has clinched the league title, played deep into the F.A. Cup, and has a date with Barcelona for the Champions League crown. During that time, Rooney’s game has rounded into shape. But, when we look back on Rooney’s career, will this go down as his best season?
In years past, when Rooney was out of the starting eleven, United struggled to score goals. Not so this season. Since the calendar turned to 2011, Rooney has played very solid football. He has been deployed deeper in the formation, playing almost as a midfielder which has allowed him to act as more of a facilitator on the attack. The bulk of the scoring for Manchester United has been done by Nani, Javier Hernandez, and Dimitar Berbatov. This has allowed the Red Devils to become a well-rounded team that is not dependent on one central striker.
Rooney has had seasons in which he scored many goals and been towards the top of the league. Take for example last season, he had thirty-four goals in all competitions, but United’s only hardware was the League Cup. That would qualify as a good individual season, but not as successful in terms of team play. Even though the goals have not been there this season for Rooney, he is still one of the focal points and leaders for this current team. This is different than in 2008, the last season that United won the Champions League. That Manchester side was filled with stars and Rooney was an up-and-coming player. In contrast, this year’s United are a workmanlike unit that is often spurred on by Rooney’s intensity and will. Because of this, Manchester, who many experts predicted would not reach these heights before the season, have now made an unpredictable run at the Double.
Ultimately players will not only be defined by what they accomplish as an individual, but also what they do as part of as a team. Take for example two players in Major League Baseball. Alex Rodriguez will retire with just about every offensive record in the book, but to this point, he has been a part of only one championship team. His teammate Derek Jeter has put up good career numbers, but he has been the leader of five championship squads. When all is said and done, the public will most likely regard Jeter as the better all-around player because of how many winning teams he was on and how he played when the spotlight was the brightest.
To bring this back to football, Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo’s careers will be linked not only because they are two of the best players in the world at this time, but also because they are former teammates at United. Rooney has stayed in Manchester and been on squads that have won multiple titles, while Ronaldo left for the money of Madrid. Ronaldo has continued to rack up impressive goal totals, but the championships have been lacking at the Bernabeu to this point (other than a Copa del Rey win). If these current trends continue, who will football fans consider the better player? Both United and Madrid have star studded squads, but only Rooney has been able to get his side the more meaningful hardware.
Individual records and accomplishments are nice, but most players want to be known as champions because champions are remembered for lifetimes. Wayne Rooney may go on to have better individual scoring seasons, but no United fan will ever forget what he helped create this season. It is the stuff of legend. It is Rooney’s best season.