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Manchester United - Van Persie technically proficient, Rooney mediocre

Here's something sent in by one of our readers on the subject of Manchester United's Wayne Rooney's performance in the Champions League group stage game Tuesday against Bayer Leverkusen...

All of a sudden, Manchester United's Wayne Rooney is top dog again, after his recent performances, which included 2 goals in the 4-2 win over Bayer Leverkusen. 

What worries me is that Rooney's fawning acolytes appear to focus exclusively on the few positives in each game, while mentally erasing all the botched passes, lousy shooting, myopic vision, selfish play, and constant squandering of possession.

Here's a few points from Tuesday night to ponder:

His first goal was typical Rooney - a botched shot that he nailed into the ground a few yards from where he struck it, from where it fortuitously bounced up into the net.

And Rooney's second goal was a 'gimme', where he typically had the ball handed to him near goal and for once managed to slot the ball home.

The perfect example of who and what Rooney represents as a footballer, however, was the defensive clanger that handed him that open-goal opportunity. Rooney did all the right things by hounding the defender into making a mistake - good. He then took the ball, and from a reasonable but not too difficult angle contrived to miss the goal by the proverbial country mile, while also failing to appreciate that Robin van Persie was wide open and in front of goal to the right. Who could blame the Dutchman for throwing up his hands in frustration ?

Now watch the replay of the game and note van Persie's goal. It wasn't a fluke, but a shot that encapsulated the difference between a superbly gifted and technically proficient player (he scored the goal off his 'wrong' foot) and a mediocre one like Rooney.

Watching van Persie score goals is like a highlight reel of superb goal scoring (although he did miss a sitter too on Tuesday).

In summary, try focusing on Rooney during a game and note how frequently he gets dispossessed because of his inability to hang on to a ball when pressured. See how many times his poor play leads to the opposition mounting attacks (note the game against Crystal Palace, when he was responsible for their one clear chance on goal).

Witness how many times he takes lame long distance shots that give keepers' basic catching practice, and how many times he kills attacks especially when others are in better position for a shot on goal.

Sir Alex Ferguson was clearly on to something when he benched Rooney towards the end of last season, and Manchester United are, on the whole, a much better team against quality opposition when he's left out and the team adopt a single striker formation.

But Rooney has scored 200 goals for Manchester United, I hear you say. But most of us can stand near an open goal mouth and feed off the largess and talent of others.

images: © Audrey Pilato, © pahudson

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