If there is one thing I can say for sure, it’s that Wayne Rooney has not been prolific in front of goal for quite some time.
It has now been nine games and counting since Rooney last found the back of the net for Manchester United. The last time the England front-man scored was during United’s 2-0 win over Aston Villa on 4th April last year.
To be fair to him, he was used in a withdrawn role for much of last season, but now that he has been restored to the tip of United’s formation, it is starting to look like he has forgotten how to score. In fact, it even appears that he has forgotten how to be a striker, which was highlighted during the Champions League qualifier against Club Brugge, when he decided to start taking throw-ins 40-yards from goal.
Just how much Rooney has declined as a striker was obvious during United’s game away to Aston Villa. In 90 minutes of play, he only had a single touch inside the opposition penalty area. He didn’t even manage a single shot on goal and he created no chances for himself or his team-mates. His impact on the game was non-existent and his overall performance left a lot to be desired.
Many would argue that this is just another barren spell which have appeared at times throughout Rooney’s career, although they are normally very brief. After scoring twice against Newcastle on Boxing Day last year, Rooney didn’t get another goal until February 16th, after going eight games without a goal. The spells are becoming more frequent, and the length is getting longer.
In previous seasons, when Rooney struggled to find the back of the net, at least he was providing assists and creating chances for others to score, but this season things are different.
Some people believe this is due to burn-out as a result of playing too many games without a proper break over the last two seasons, which had the World Cup cushioned in between. However, this argument does not hold water when you consider the number of games other players, like Lionel Messi, have played in the same period of time, yet they still manage to score boatloads of goals.
Louis van Gaal’s decision to use Rooney as a lone striker this season is clearly ill advised, and I doubt that Rooney can be relied upon to provide the goals that can win titles. What United need is another proven striker to partner with the captain. The decision to allow Radamel Falcao to depart the club is inconsequential, as he proved to be a pale shadow of the prolific striker who tore into opposition defences throughout Europe just a few years ago, but the decision to sell Robin van Persie without an adequate replacement coming in baffled me.
United are seriously short of fire-power, and without a suitable striker to accompany Rooney, the club can wave goodbye to their title challenge this season.