Man Utd Focus - Rooney facing difficult times at Old Trafford
As Manchester United new-boy Robin van Persie soaks up the plaudits following his match-winning hat-trick against Southampton last weekend, Wayne Rooney could be forgiven for having a crisis of faith at the club he has been with for the past eight years. He has almost instantly been usurped as the star performer at Old Trafford thanks to his Dutch strike partner's sensational start to his United career.
In truth, Rooney has been the subject of wariness from United supporters ever since the extraordinary saga that developed almost two years ago when Rooney stated that he wanted to leave the club due to a lack of ambition. The fans and the manager are slow to forget such a sleight to their team, and it took quite some time for Rooney to regain the favour of his supposed home support.
The 2010/11 season, which followed a highly disappointing World Cup after the ankle injury at the back-end of the previous campaign that decimated United's run-in, yielded the Croxteth-born striker's lowest goal return for the Reds. However, Rooney recovered from his dip in form to score his sublime overhead winner against Manchester City, secure his fourth Premier League title, then find the net 35 times the following season, representing his best return for Sir Alex Ferguson.
If the carefree Rooney can be brought back, it would be a terrifying prospect for opponents to deal with a maverick forward twinned with the touch of van Persie, backed up by the likes of Shinji Kagawa, Antonio Valencia and Paul Scholes. Yet the prodigious talent that burst on to the scene a decade ago is a different prospect these days, admitting as much in his latest autobiography.
Rooney confesses to the battering his body has taken over the years, stating: “When I get up in the morning after a game, I struggle to walk for the first half an hour”. Ferguson, who wrote the foreword to the book, may have taken note of the physical frailty of his player. If so, the 26-year-old, who played like a man at the age of 16, could feasibly be another big name on the manager's list of casualties in his era at United.
Rooney's contract is due to expire in the summer of 2015, which would only be two years away at the end of the current campaign. Should there be any lingering doubts over the forward's commitment to United, there would be little chance of the club allowing him to enter the final stages of his deal.
However, there is more than enough room for Rooney to be accommodated in Ferguson's team. He has already shown signs of a blossoming relationship with Kagawa, whilst in van Persie there is the potential for a truly great strike partnership to evolve. When he returns from his injury lay-off due to the gash on his leg sustained against Fulham, Rooney will need to be firing on all cylinders to win back his place in the side. It could be a make-or-break scenario for one of his generation's finest products.
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