The Dutch ace arrived at the theatre of dreams aged 29 at the peak of his powers after his best season. He went on to win the Premier League title with the Red Devils, as well as retaining the Golden Boot for his 26 league goals; he scored 30 in total for United across all competitions.
Meanwhile, United’s star striker for almost the last decade has always been Wayne Rooney. The England number 10 has been the main man at Old Trafford since his arrival from David Moyes’ Everton back in 2004.
On Tuesday evening he Rooney scored his 200th goal for the club, edging closer and closer to Sir Bobby Charlton’s record tally of 249 goals for Manchester United.
However, last term, Sir Alex Ferguson’s last in charge, as it turned to be, Wayne Rooney had his poorest season in a red shirt. He struggled with fitness and form, and I had suspected the arrival of Van Persie had in some indirect way knocked Rooney’s confidence perhaps.
Rooney scored just 16 goals last season in 37 appearance, he found himself on Ferguson’s bench more often than either of them would have liked and his body language told the story of a star whose light had gone out at times – he wasn’t enjoying himself like the Wayne Rooney of old.
That can be attributed perhaps to his change of position – Ferguson opted to deploy the striker as a an attacking midfielder at times last term, as a creative playmaker, a second striker, behind Robin van Persie who, as strikers do, took all the plaudits for his goals.
Rooney shrunk into the shadow of the Dutchman at times, cast out of the limelight in a supporting role. But, all the while, Rooney’s new position was improving him and the fruits of his labour last term are now apparent in his improved quality, fitness, form and confidence. He was simply on fire on Tuesday night.
His first-touch, his control and his technique were razor sharp, his passing and vision, his finishing, movement and positioning were of a player that undoubtedly has the capability to be either a striker – there is no doubt Wayne Rooney is one of the best goal scorers on the planet when he’s at his best – but also a player with the capacity to create and orchestrate the play around him.
He was like the conductor of the orchestra last night and when he plays like that he shows his true quality – I firmly believe Wayne Rooney is a better player than Robin van Persie, he’s more intelligent (on the pitch, at least), more altruistic, a harder worker and a better leader but his reemergence as one of the most dangerous forwards in the world is largely down to the Dutchman’s arrival at Old Trafford.
By bringing in Robin van Persie to challenge Wayne Rooney up front – a battle which, ultimately, Rooney lost – and finding a way for them to play off each other, Ferguson played his masterstroke in his final season.
Wayne Rooney’s form and confidence dipped but, as he went away to lick his wounds, he improved and he came back a better player, a well-rounded player with finesse and a deftness of touch unrivalled in England.
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