Former Manchester United captain and current Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce has come out in defence of Wayne Rooney, amidst the recent criticism the current United and England captain has received.
Rooney has been poor for United this season and hasn’t started a Premier League game since the 3-1 defeat to Watford. But Bruce, like so many others, suggests that you have to look backward to the past to see what Rooney can offer for the present and in the future.
“Wayne Rooney has been the best English player for the past decade. You just have to look at his goal scoring record to know that he is up there with the very, very best the world can offer.”
Bruce does, however, make a bit of sense when saying that Rooney’s form has suffered due to his position constantly being changed. Rooney has been deployed as a holding midfielder, a box to box midfielder, a number 10, a striker and even as a winger in the last 18 months. It is difficult to find form without consistency, however, I would argue that he has been tried in all of these different positions to try to shoehorn him into the team, but both Jose Mourinho and Louis Van Gaal saw that he wasn’t good enough to play consistently in any of these positions. Bruce also almost echo’s Mourinho’s rhetoric that Rooney needs to play at the top of the pitch to get the best out of him:
“I think Wayne has been a bit unfortunate. They have chopped and changed him around too often. Play him in his position as a centre-forward and he’s guaranteed to get you goals. He has always produced if you play him in the top end of the pitch. But because people have used him in different areas I think he has suffered from that a little bit. Make no mistake, he has been one of the great players and still is if you ask me. He’s still got a lot to offer.”
Bruce also believes that Rooney has a lot more to offer, and perhaps he does off the pitch but on it for Manchester United he certainly does not. European football and high-level Premier League games are now too high a level for Rooney. Rooney may still have something to offer on the pitch for a lesser team than United, maybe his level is more suited to that of Aston Villa where he could play for Bruce, his performances this season certainly haven’t suggested anything to the contrary.
There is no denying what Rooney has done for the club in the past is great and he is only three goals away from breaking Sir Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record, which when he eventually breaks it will cement his place in United folk law as one of the all-time greats on the pitch. Rooney has never connected with the fans and that’s one of the reasons why despite all he has achieved in the past is still not viewed as a legend by a large portion of the fans. Many United fans also remember how good Rooney was in the past, and that is what makes his current slump so painful for fans. Rooney may still have something to offer elsewhere, but certainly not at United.