Did Wayne Rooney Fulfil his Potential at Manchester United?
As Wayne Rooney enters the twilight of his career playing in the MLS (just like many other English players have before him) and nears the end of his playing days, it seems pertinent to ask whether he fulfilled his potential at Manchester United or not.
Rooney is probably one of the most divisive figures ever in English football: it's hard to imagine anyone who has divided opinion as much as him.
Though it's widely accepted he never really fulfilled his potential on the international stage for England (even though he is currently the all-time English goalscorer), the answer as to whether he did for Manchester United or not is less clear.
Rooney is the club's all-time top goalscorer, so someone who has scored over 253 goals for Manchester United cannot be too bad a player. Having said that, he did score those goals over 13 seasons for the club at an average of about 20 goals a season, which is a solid return for a striker.
Perhaps the other thing that makes it hard to tell whether Rooney was a genuine great at United or not was his inconsistency. Towards the end of his career at Old Trafford, especially in his final two seasons (2015/16 and 2016/17), he looked well past his best and was nothing like the explosive Rooney of old in his early United career.
His final season 2016/17 was particularly painful for him as he was nowhere near the first team as the United faithful had a new ageing idol to worship in Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Even though Mourinho has been criticised for some of his decisions, offloading Rooney after a season as United boss might actually have been a wise decision given how much Rooney had declined by that point.
However, at times at United, particularly after that man Cristiano Ronaldo left for Real Madrid in 2009, Rooney looked the real deal. The 2009/10 and 2011/12 campaigns were his best seasons in terms of goals scored, notching 34 each in all competitions.
These two seasons were when Rooney was at the peak of his career and had matured after all those petulant outbursts that had characterised his early career at United and England. 2006/07 was another good season for Rooney as he and Ronaldo combined to haul United back to their rightful place as Premier League champions.
2009/10 was probably Rooney's best season at United and that point was probably the closest he ever got to being considered in the same world-class bracket as Ronaldo and Messi.
It's an unwise comparison as Ronaldo and Messi have clearly achieved far more personally in their career than Rooney. In that case, it can definitely be argued that Rooney was not in the same class as he never really sustained his world-class form over a career.
Rooney didn't even receive a single red card in 2011/12, showing that he had mellowed at the tender age of 26. Though in many ways after that season, his career at United rapidly declined, with him only registering 16 goals the following season.
Rio Ferdinand even remarked at one point that he thought that Rooney losing his fire was the worst thing that could have happened to him as that was precisely what made him play so well.
Even if 2013/14 brought a brief revival for Rooney, his career definitely nosedived at United after that as his speed declined (though his footballing intelligence still remained well intact), the consequence of spending several years at the top of a very intensive league.
Sir Alex Ferguson always said that Rooney tended to score in streaks and the same could be said of his Manchester United career.
Though there were some incredible highs, such as the overhead kick against Manchester City and winning every major honour at the club, it could be argued that Rooney fell just short of achieving his true potential, though he was still a very good player for the club.
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