It would be fair to say the first-quarter of this domestic campaign has been indifferent for Wayne Rooney. Nine goals in Manchester United’s first seven games – including back-to-back hat-tricks, one of them against Arsenal – have been followed by uncomplimentary mediocrity.
As they attempt retention of their Premier League crown, the obstacles standing in United’s way have intensified tenfold. Despite the problematic Carlos Tevez bourgeoning incessant bad press at Manchester City, Roberto Mancini still has the luxury of rotating the prolific Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli who have registered a combined 26 goals in 12 league games.
Since his high-profiled dismissal, Rooney’s performances have been adequate, but for a player whose acrobatic genius dispatched their closest rivals last February, adequate is disappointing. The champions’ victory against Swansea typified where the ex-Everton striker now finds himself – despite being back in his No 10 role, he again failed to genuinely inspire. Conversely, it may just be a natural dip in form, but after such a rampant start to the season the coincidental explanation must be up for examination. His side’s last three wins were earned more through graft than their early season exuberance; an exuberance that saw them hit 21 goals in five games in which Rooney scored his nine goals.
It seems then that major international tournaments do not agree with United’s talisman. His Euro 2004 ended prematurely through injury, a dismissal against Portugal at the 2006 World Cup implied the same fate and in England’s underwhelming 2010 South African campaign his non-plussed demeanour was integral to an eventual German execution. This then brings us to England’s current situation; his petulant sending-off will now see him miss, at the very least, a majority of his side’s group games.
Rooney’s summer of footballing activity may still hang in the balance – with an appeal hearing now set for the 8th December – but between now and the 2012 finals his employees need him to re-gather his brilliance. United’s noisy neighbours are growing week-by-week and Rooney pulling himself out of his current slumber, is key to the champions silencing the seemingly unstoppable, champions-elect.
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