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Wayne Rooney - Unfulfilled potential or underappreciated legend?

Manchester United v Chelsea - FA Cup Sixth Round

Wayne Rooney

In the light of recent events surrounding Manchester United FC, questions and articles regarding the importance of Wayne Rooney have creeped up everywhere. Is being benched for the biggest game of the year a sign of not being good enough? According to Sir Alex, it isn’t, and the tactical explanations of the decision will please many a United fan. But in a larger perspective, do the Messis and Ronaldos of this world get dropped for tactical reasons? Or is naming Rooney amongst such glittering names a grave mistake?

What are the credentials to be called a ‘legend’? A look at the No.10′s career achievements make it clear he has been the most consistent player in his position for both club and country for over a decade now. That may mean a lot in terms of club and much lesser in terms of the country in this case. Stats-wise, he is far behind goal-a-game machines Messi and Ronaldo. His position is also similar to both these megastars, giving each player the best chance to be the fulcrum for their respective teams. In terms of skill as well, even the most die-hard United fans will accept he his lacking in comparison to the duo.

But what else does he bring to the game? The first in mind is an unparalleled selflessness that sees him defend much better than most in his position and display a high positional and tactical adjustment compared to the ‘greats’. He has changed his game from heavy-built power striker to quick passing centre-forward to supporting striker for Ronaldo to singular target man and finally to deep-forward game orchestrator in the current set-up. It is this adjusting nature and ability to take on different roles that prevents him from mastering a particular role and is the reason the manager made the tactical decisions last Tuesday. His willingness to sacrifice his complete style of play for the team is a dream for any able manager, and the major reason why he has not made it to the so-called ‘Ballon D’or’ or ‘players of the world’ list in the past decade; and more recently, not even to the starting XI against Madrid.

Only hardcore United fans would have seen the results of these attributes over a vast period of time. Thereby, it is not a surprise that he is trusted by Sir Alex, loved by the loyal fans, and yet not deemed too highly by the rest of the world. Another stat that goes beyond the records is the talismanic force he exudes that is able to drive the complete team forward. Many of United’s comebacks seem to be spearheaded by the England international, and without him, there is an unexplainable void in the team. These facts count for a presence that is more than just goals or assists.

The summary of what I’m trying to point out may well lie in the coming weeks. He already scored a vital goal for United against Chelsea in yesterday’s FA Cup game, which was undone by some sloppy defending by United, but may still win the FA Cup. That would still not earn him a Champions League medal, much less a FIFA pro XI team spot for the year, thus continuing the ‘good but not great’ jibes from many football viewers and writers alike. But he would have done so for the umpteenth time, etching his name as a ‘great’ in the view of his coach and most United fans. And maybe that is just what really matters.

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