An interesting thing about Wayne Rooney over the last few seasons – it seems he dances between greatness one year and getting on everyone’s nerves the following season. Manchester United usually win their championships when Rooney isn’t at his best, although it shouldn’t have anything to do with it.
Maybe there’s something about Rooney not meant to be a leading man. On his first season without Cristiano Ronaldo by his side, Rooney scored 26 league goals and 34 in all competitions. However, Manchester United lost to Chelsea in the title race in that season. The next year, the first time Rooney seemed on the verge of leaving Manchester United, he scored 11 league goals, 16 in all competitions. United won the title quite convincingly and reached the Champions League final.
The story takes another twist in 2011-2012: Manchester United begin the season in devastating form, as Alex Ferguson demands his players to play like Barcelona. Attractive football with plenty of goals, including that 8-2 demolition of Arsenal, with Rooney putting on one of his career’s finest performances. But then came the loss to Manchester City, and Ferguson decided he’d rather win the title with depressing football. He almost does, and Rooney scores 27 league goals along the way (34 in all competitions), but the trophy goes to their city rivals, while they’re knocked out in the group stage of the Champions League.
Last season? History repeats itself. Rooney wants to leave, Ferguson wants to kick him out, eventually he stays, gives a couple of good months before being benched by Ferguson in a crucial Champions League match, followed by plenty of summer drama. In the end? Rooney patches up things with David Moyes and is ready to win his place as a leading man once more. Robin van Persie’s injury helps him play as a striker more than ever. The result? Eight goals and eight assists, which makes it seem like a wonderful season for Rooney, but everything else indicates towards a bad season for Manchester United.
This time, it’ll have nothing to do with who is the leading man. It’ll have to do with a weaker squad than the rest of their title challengers, and for having a manager in David Moyes who isn’t quite good enough right now to manage a team like United, and possibly never will be.