Wayne Rooney this week received another accolade for a season which from a personal perspective has been his best in a Manchester United shirt and indeed his best since bursting onto the scene as a raw 16-year-old. If United, however, are unable to overturn Chelsea’s advantage in the two remaining games of the season it will also be one of the most disappointing for a player who has done everything to keep his side in contention for the title.
Rooney was the deserved winner of the PFA Footballer of the Year award as although the other nominees have had fantastic seasons in their own right none have had the same influence on their side as Rooney has. Probably the closest player in terms of influence to Rooney amongst the other nominees has been Cesc Fabregas with the Gunners simply unable to function without him but when the Spaniard has been in the side he has not led Arsenal to the same heights that Rooney has with United. In the opinion of this writer Rooney is the only of the four nominated players who has any chance of being among the top three for both the European and World footballer of the year awards. If he can carry the hopes of England on his shoulders for the World Cup and achieve some form of success he certainly has a very good chance of claiming the crown. However, it is currently extremely difficult to see past Lionel Messi even if Argentina’s poor run of form continues into the final tournament.
However, the award for Rooney will seem immaterial to the England man if he is unable to be fit for United’s final game, as is his aim, and unable to have any influence of the team some feel he has so often carried throughout the season. The scoreline against Spurs may have suggested that United did not suffer without Rooney but there were periods throughout the match when United seemed to be without a leader. Dimitar Berbatov, so often on the end of criticism, proved that he does posses the attributes to be a success at United with his second-half performance which saw him lead the line well and at times win the aerial battle against a strong Spurs centre-back partnership. This was a good performance from Berbatov but was not in the mould of someone who his team knows can dig them out of a hole and who teammates continually look to for some kind of spark.
The spark came for United from another player so often on the end of criticism throughout his United career that has finally stepped out of the shadows of former players and is starting to justify the outlay for his services. A criticism routinely attributed to the performances of Nani is that the former Sporting man often makes the wrong decision in crucial times in matches at times holding onto the ball too long, crossing poorly or blazing over when a pass is required. His finish for the crucial goal however, showed a growing maturity and the knowledge of exactly what is required when it comes down to it. For a player to show that kind of confidence in his own ability shows what a talent the Portuguese does possess – all the United fans will be hoping that he can continue to harness that talent next season as he will undoubtedly prove a huge player for United in the next campaign. Whether his new found maturity has come just too late for United this season is a question the answer to which will come apparent over the course of the next two weeks.
Many feel that United having beaten Spurs will take maximum points from their remaining games with the crucial title deciding match coming when Chelsea travel to Anfield. However, United’s job is far from complete as they travel to a ground this weekend where a crucial late goal from Federico Macheda was required to salvage a win last season. If Rooney is hoping to be fit for the final day United will be wishing that it is in fact this game where they could rely on his services as to come away with a win without him may again be a tough ask. United will again look to Nani to provide some form of spark with this really proving the acid test as to whether he has found the required consistency with the newly crowned PFA Player of the Year watching from the stands hoping that his own personal achievements have not gone to waste.