Whether England fans or not, Manchester United followers around the world were wishing Wayne Rooney would get on the score sheet in the game against Montenegro. But hope began to fade as the minutes ticked away and once again the game passed Rooney by. It was typical of his recent performances and although he wasn’t alone in his disappointing performance, even his biggest advocates will have to admit he’s a long way from his best.
Unable to show any superiority against relative minnows Montenegro, it could be time for fans in Manchester United jerseys to start wondering when their star striker will ever capture his previous form. He’s an integral part of his club and country's fortunes; he has the ability to raise the level of players around him but right now it’s just not happening. The England side, once again, failed to show any decisive quality all over the field; the performance drew comparisons to the current United team – underperforming and out of sorts.
In what has now been revealed as an effort to protect the strikers interests Sir Alex Fergusson claimed that Rooney had been suffering with ankle problems. A niggling ankle injury had been costing Rooney his form on the field. After the Montenegro game however, Rooney revealed to the press he’s not been suffering with injuries and didn’t know why Sir Alex Fergusson had made the claims. Contradicting his manager in such a public fashion could have massive implications for the relationship between the two. Many journalists have started to wonder if this episode could cause a rift that would see Rooney turn his back on Old Trafford.
At Manchester United, absolutely no one is bigger than the club. Ferguson has demonstrated this before through the dismissal of David Beckham, Roy Keane and Paul Ince. These players were all major figures at United at the time but serve as an example of what happens when you get on the wrong side of the boss. Madrid would be the obvious destination for the troubled player, but if things didn’t work out there’s reason to believe we’ve already seen the best from the soccer shoes of Wayne Rooney.
After the defensive crisis of last season, United could be facing a similar problem on their front line. An over reliance on Dimitar Berbatov as the only in form striker could backfire if the Bulgarian becomes injured or suffers a drop in form. Michael Owen was banging on the door long enough, but when he finally had his chance to shine he let himself down. There’s no doubt about the qualities of Macheda and Hernandez, but they’ve shown they’re not quite ready to lead the line and deliver goals consistently. That leaves United spread desperately thin up top and relying heavily on goals from the midfield.
Manchester United simply needs Wayne Rooney back to his best. The chances of it happening over night looks slim but the next three games against West Bromwich Albion, Bursaspor and Stoke represent a good chance of Rooney getting back on the score sheet. A goal or two would do Rooney the world of good in terms of his confidence. After so many revelations about his private life, he knows all eyes are on him and its becoming apparent that the extra pressure is taking his toll. The World is watching but it’s frustratingly unclear what to expect next from Rooney.
Can United challenge Chelsea for the title without an in-form Wayne Rooney?
Written by: Olly Dyson for soccerpro.com