Wayne Rooney’s performance for Manchester United in Tuesday evening’s 4-2 victory over Bayer Leverkusen at Old Trafford showed the England number 10 still has the ability to reassert himself as one of the greats of world football.
Rooney scored the Red Devils’ opener in the first half and netted a brace in the second half but his overall play on the night was reminiscent of his best. He was all over the pitch, he controlled, the game, ran the show and, by comparison, dwarfed Robin van Persie who, although he scored a goal, has been pedestrian at times for David Moyes this season.
Rooney scored his 200th goal for United – he is on course to break Sir Bobby Charlton’s record tally of 249 goals for the club, if he stays at Old Trafford, of course.
Manager David Moyes hit the nail on the head when he described the striker’s performance in his post-match interview.
"Wayne was very, very good," said Moyes.
"He has been great in training. He is lean and fit and it showed."
Rooney’s form and fitness has been a contentious issue for the past year or so – former boss Sir Alex Ferguson had criticized his performance last season following the arrival of double Golden Boot winner Van Persie.
Since his arrival at Old Trafford from Moyes’ Everton in 2004, over the course of almost a decade, the 27-year-old from Croxteth emerged as one of the most gifted players in the world.
He has won the Premier League title five times and the Champions League twice with United but the Wayne Rooney circa 2010 had seemed to have vanished over the last 12 months. His body language told the story of an athlete struggling to achieve full fitness and top form – his confidence had clearly taken a knock somewhere along the road.
He scored 16 goals in all competitions for United last term, a far cry from his 34 goals the previous season. He found himself of Ferguson’s bench more often that either of them would have liked and fell into the shadow of the flying Dutchman for the most part.
All credit must go to the player himself – as well as the manager – for his re-emergence. On Tuesday night we saw the Wayne Rooney of old, the danger man we all know he is capable of being week in week out for his club and on the world stage for his country.
His attitude has changed, his work ethic is phenomenal, his body language has reverted back to player that loves nothing more than to play football, wherever he’s deployed and whoever he plays against.
Wayne Rooney is one of the world’s most dangerous and gifted footballers and one of the true greats of his generation – he belongs up there with the legends like Charlton, Law and Rowley and George Best.
image: © jubei kibagami