Cleat Geeks

The Manchester Derby and ‘Rooney, Rooney, Rooney’

In a match that needed no hype but got plenty anyway, it was fitting that the work of the afternoon should end in a stalemate for both teams but for different reasons.ManchesterDerby

Manchester United and Manchester City on a sunny Manchester Sunday afternoon played out one of the worst, most insipid derby matches for many a long year. Neither side showed the passion or aggression often evident on the occasion of a Manchester derby. The end result was perhaps more indicative of the style of play from United rather that the defensive quality of City, although that was very much in evidence.

Manuel Pellegrini had said ahead of the match that City would be looking to win, however, it was quickly evident that they would be happy to settle for a point. Perhaps the absence of Sergio Agüero and David Silva played a part in their match tactics before the game.

Manchester United approached the match by playing Anthony Martial out on the left wing allowing Wayne Rooney to play in the central position. A certain amount of frustration is growing amongst United supporters as Louis Van Gaal persists in the tactic of keeping a misfiring Rooney as his main striker. Martial while still effective on the left wing is more of a threat playing centrally with his pace, power and eye for goal.

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney celebrates after scoring a goal during the first leg of their Champions League quarter final soccer match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in LondonTo be fair to Van Gaal, Martial played on the left wing for France in their last international game and was the man of the match. However right now Manchester United are not France and are in desperate need of finding their own scoring boots if their position in the league is to be sustainable.

What was noticeable very early on was that Rooney’s game is still way off the boil and looks a frustrated figure on the pitch. Rooney of a few years ago was likened to a bull in a china shop by the way he played, chasing, tackling and scoring ‘worldies’.

The Rooney of today is a shadow of that man and seems to have lost the simple ability to control a ball whist overly trying 30 yard cross field passes with many going astray. One of the many statistics from the game was that Rooney made 28 misplaced passes in 90 minutes of football which is incredibly poor for a player of his reputation.

Having reached his 30th birthday the day before, on the football field Rooney created nothing special to mark the annual event. In the whole 90 minutes Rooney did not manage a shot on target and managed only one shot in the whole match which was unfortunately blocked.

Louis Van Gaal at the start of the season came out publicly and proclaimed that Rooney would play as an out and out striker in his formation. No one at the time could predict how poorly Rooney would play and with only six goals to his name so far in all competitions something needs to kick start his season quickly if United are to continue with the present forward line.

Battle-of-Manchester-Many who have watched Rooney struggle this season are convinced that the centre forward role is now beyond him and argue that he should be deployed more in the number 10 position, in the hole, just behind the main striker. In this way it is argued he can have more of an impact on the game, threading balls through for the main striker, presumably Martial, or directing the focus of the attack from a position more suited to his style of play.

Over the last few seasons the talk at United has even been of Rooney moving into midfield but at the moment United have a plethora of midfielders and room, even for Rooney, is at a premium. It will also not be lost on Van Gaal that last season due to the clubs injury crisis Rooney often played in midfield but it was not that successful for Rooney or United.

Manchester United will hope that the analysis of their former manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, on Rooney’s goalscoring prowess will once again be accurate. Ferguson said that Rooney scores ‘goals in bursts or in patches’ rather than being prolific ever week. Perhaps a purple patch will begin next Wednesday when United face Middlesbrough in the last eight of the Capital One Cup at Old Trafford, perhaps.

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