Manchester United have been struggling this season, and one of the major problems is a lack of goals from open play. United have had to rely on goals from set pieces since putting 4 past Swansea on the opening day of the season, and Phil from Live Life United believes the reintroduction of Wayne Rooney may be part of this problem.
Since Wayne Rooney returned to the starting line-up following the 4-1 win against Swansea, Manchester United failed to registered an open play goal in the Premier League, with this unwanted record continuing in the 2-1 defeat against West Brom Albion this weekend.
In a country where power is appreciated over technic, running over positioning, tackling over tactical intelligence and directness over possession, Rooney has been hyped up for possessing these ‘ideal’ qualities. In last 5 matches, Rooney has been hailed by pundits, journalists and fans for his good performances due to his non-stop running, determination and work rate. With Rooney scoring 3 goals via free kick in last 3 matches, all this has served as a smokescreen, for Rooney struggles the #10 role .
If we analyse Rooney’s stats from the past 5 Premier League matches, he has made 34 long passes and only 4 through balls with an average pass accuracy rate of only 74%, very poor for someone playing as a playmaker.
Rooney has been unable to provide any threat in between the lines as he does not have the quick feet and quick thinking to play in most congested area.When there were opposition players around him, he’s been poor holding up the ball and finds himself unable to escape with the ball to create openings.
Due to his limitation, Rooney’s frequently drops deep to find himself a little bit of space, thus playing long diagonal ball to the wingers hence the whopping 34 long passes, not good enough for a player whose primary role is to inflict damage higher up the pitch.
With Rooney unable to offer any options and threat through the middle, United have opt to attack through horribly out of form wingers. Unfortunately something easily dealt with by defending deep and limiting the space at the byline so that our wingers and fullbacks have difficulty providing quality crosses.
As a result, United have looked short of ideas and penetration in the final third of the pitch, with opposition teams easily stifling United’s predictable attacking play.
“We lacked an intensity and spark to our game, and in the end they deserved the win, I can’t argue with that. In the first half we had a lot of the ball and tried to move it – we probably controlled a lot of the game – but I thought for all our possession we didn’t create a lot of opportunities. And when we did, we didn’t take them.”
“Possession without cutting edge” is a recurring theme for his side since taking over the helm from Sir Alex and with the 2-1 defeat to West Brom, Moyes has said that he needed to evaluate the players at his disposal. The problem is that he has been chopping and changing all the outfield players… except Wayne Rooney.
He made a number of changes in the second half but left Rooney on, even though he had one of his poorer games so far and seemed short of ideas playing in the hole. The decision to sub off Shinji Kagawa at half time instead of moving him inside and pushing Rooney to the left or higher up was confusing, especially as Kagawa was one of the players likely to create something, with Nani.
During the 4-1 defeat against Manchester City, Moyes played Rooney in the hole with Welbeck ahead of him. It proved to be disaster as Van Persie has been compensating for Wayne Rooney’s shortcomings in that area with his technical abilities. If Welbeck was played behind Wayne Rooney against City, I believe it will make a whole lot of different in that match with Welbeck better equipped to beat opponents in that area.
The problem with Wayne Rooney is that he is not a #9 type of striker who playing high up the pitch looking to make a run behind the opposition back four as he likes to drop deep nor he is a playmaker or ”trequartista”with the guile, craft and technical abilities to impose damage in between the line as he lacks the touch, the hold up play or the quick feet to skip past defenders in the most crowded area on the pitch.
Wayne Rooney is still a very good all around player but I don’t think he is suited to be playing as a playmaker, David Moyes needs to find the best position for Rooney and the best way to utilise his strengths but clearly, his strengths are not made for the role of #10.
Sir Alex had been trying hard to bring in a playmaker toward the end of his tenure, as can be seen in his pursuit of Wesley Sneijder, the best #10 at that time. Missing out on him, in the end managed to bring in Shinji Kagawa who was named the best player in Bundesliga for the past 2 seasons.
Sir Alex’s transfer activity clearly showed that he was aware of the weakness in that area for United, and he thus attempted to rectify it.
Kagawa debut season was interrupted by injury, this year he is keen to make up for lost ground. Perhaps Moyes should give him the chance to.