Wayne Rooney has had plenty of successful goalscoring seasons with Manchester United, with credit owed to his suppliers just as much. The past couple of seasons have seen that supply dry up but Aalim Khaderi feels that United may have found the solution to that.
It has been a while since Manchester United and England captain, Wayne Rooney, hit what is considered a prolific tally of goals in a single season. It is well documented that there have been influential factors restricting his productiveness upfront, For starters, every season since the Premier League campaign of 2009/10, Rooney has never consistently played upfront over the span of an entire season. He’s been deployed across just about every possible midfield position as well as playing a role as a second striker. While the media has either blasted Rooney for his own performances, or hyped up the influence of factors such as the one listed above, there is an underlying cause for Rooney’s reduced goal output.
This elusive factor is service. Just ask yourselves when was the last time that Manchester United had a winger capable of providing consistent, quality service? Last season, United sorely lacked in this department. Ashley Young always beat his man, but his balls into the box were inconsistent and erratic, while Antonio Valencia struggled to even beat his man, and Angel Di Maria was in turbulent form. Juan Mata played out wide as well but his tendency to move inside renders him as more of a false wide midfielder, so he cannot be considered a “winger”. Before this season United had Luis Nani who would attempt various tricks only to fail nine times out of ten. Even when Nani did manage to find a cross, his service was inconsistent like Ashley Young.
This might sound harsh, but the last time United possessed this type of player was back in the 2009 to 2012 period. Antonio Valencia, who still remains at the club, was once more than capable of providing the required service. In this period, the Ecuadorian was entering his peak years as he was able to combine electric pace with the perfect amount of skill. He was able to get by his man, and unlike the other Manchester United wingers, he lofted in not just decent but perfect service into the box. Rooney’s run of goals scored with his head in 2010? Almost all of those were created by Valencia’s deliveries. In the Carling Cup final, guess who found Rooney with a dinked cross for the winning goal? Antonio Valencia. Valencia forged an excellent partnership with the Englishman. A host of Manchester United’s goals were scored from the duo in 2010. Rooney would drop into spaces to collect the ball and would then find a pass out wide to Valencia. From here Valencia would beat his man and send in a dangerous cross.
Six years on, Valencia has regressed into a player afraid of beating his man. In matches this season, the Ecuadorian would carry the ball up the field, but when he encountered a defender, he would panic and either play it back or sideways. The only bit of exciting play Valencia produced all season, was when he skilfully beat Joe Allen for Wayne Rooney’s goal versus Liverpool. This has essentially left United with no wingers capable of providing decent service from wide positions. The drought has extended for many years now, however, it might not even continue into next season because of one key piece of business.
The signing of Memphis Depay generated fanfare for all the obvious reasons. He is young, powerful and a proven goal scorer. But what makes Depay so enticing, is the fact that he can provide service from more than one area. This is because of the numerous weapons he has at his disposal. Depay is very pacey and strong, which makes for the perfect winger in the Premier League. He would be able to power his way through defenders with pure physical skill. Depay would be able to get to the by-line and send balls into the area with relative ease. And unlike Valencia, Depay is extremely technically gifted. This would allow Depay to vary the type of service he provides. The problem with Valencia was that he could only drive past players down the touchline, as this was where he could utilize his physical assets. Whenever he was forced inside, the Ecuadorian would always release the ball immediately rendering him ineffective. Depay’s skills, allow him to play a sort of double role out wide for United. Not only will he be able to send balls in from the touchline, but Depay can also play the Mata role. As discussed previously in the article, Mata constantly drifts inside to become almost a fourth midfielder. The Dutchman has technical ability to rival that of Mata’s and this should allow him to cut inside and find balls into feet as well. Depay would be able to combine in midfield, and just like Mata, he would be able to find Rooney with balls in behind the defense.
With two excellent sources of service, Rooney will be afforded more chances to score. The England and Manchester United skipper will also be able to forge a partnership with Depay, similar to what he had with Valencia. Both players complement each other as Rooney’s range of passing means he can find Depay in open spaces out wide. The latter’s speed and accuracy in delivery would allow Rooney to dart in the box just as he did in 2010. And unlike years gone by, his runs into the box will not be in vain. Depay has the capacity to combine with Wayne Rooney in the middle of the field as well. Let’s not forget that the winger is a goal scorer himself and if he rejuvenates Rooney’s goal scoring, United could amass more than 30 goals from just these two players.
The good news for United fans is that the last time Manchester United had a player like Memphis Depay, Wayne Rooney scored 34 goals in a single season. With this in mind, we can look forward to a very successful season for not just Memphis Depay or Wayne Rooney, but Manchester United.
Written by Aalim Khaderi