Last term was the most difficult and challenging the England number 10 had had in a Red Devils shirt. The arrival of Robin van Persie at Old Trafford coupled with fitness struggles saw Wayne Rooney drop in his technical and fitness levels as well as down the pecking order for the champions.
In what would turn out to be Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season after 26 years in charge Rooney saw his goal tally more than half in number – he went from 34 goals in 2011/12, equaling his personal best of 2009/10 to just 16 last term – and his position converted from an out-and-out centre-forward leading the line to a second-striker, a playmaker, a genuine number 10 providing service to the newly arrived Dutch striker.
Van Persie took all the plaudits last term and earned himself the Golden Boot for the second year in a row as Rooney took shots fired from all directions – his manager, the fans and the pundits. He was linked all summer long with a departure – to either Arsenal or Chelsea and the Blues maintained their interest all the way into the new season.
However, Rooney remains a Manchester United player and so far this term he has seen something of a rebirth under new boss David Moyes, formerly his coach at his boyhood club Everton. For club, the number 10 has scored 7 goals and made 10 assists in 15 appearances across all competitions and for his country he has been a talisman with some towering performances for Roy Hodgson.
He has taken his role as a playmaker and creator and service provider on board and with prowess and professionalism, understanding that it makes him a better and more complete player rather than as a burden that limits his goalscoring ability and he has trained hard to regain full fitness to ensure his technical level is of a consistently high quality.
He has undoubtedly been United’s best player this season and has almost single-handedly kept them in the title race amidst a difficult, challenging and overall disappointing start to the season and he has ensured, along with the likes of England captain Steven Gerrard, that his country will be present next summer at the World Cup in Brazil.
They say the darkest hour is just before dawn and, in the case of Wayne Rooney, they would be right – last season was the toughest yet for the 28-year-old striker but overall it made him a better, more competitive and more complete footballer.
We learned and the player himself likely learned just how strong and determined he is to be the best he can be through those dark moments of unrest and unease. This season, out of his ten years at Old Trafford, we witness the rebirth of one of the best players in the world. Wayne Rooney has still got (and always had) what it takes to be a leader for United and England.
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