Sunday, October 19, 2008

Can Rooney go on to become the ultimate penalty-box predator?

It's not often that you come out of an international break with any talking points other than that of players who have been injured while playing for their respective countries. That certainly hasn't been the case for those who like to discuss the form of Wayne Rooney, which of course includes those who believe that they have some sort of say in the matter, I'm not only referring to United fans but those in the media and the England fans too.

Rooney is currently hot, having notched eight goals from six games for club and country, of that number four came while on international duty. Fabio Capello had gone on record telling the United striker that he needed to improve his goal scoring record. There is no argument on this point as Rooney himself has talked of the need for greater consistency in front of goal.

For their part, United fans have been more than happy with the job that Rooney has done for the club so far. Goals aside, we could not ask for more from the little man, he gives his all in every game.

As ever and because Rooney plays for England, his form has turned into a national debate. One theory that has emerged over the last week is that Fergie has 'ruined Rooney'. Prior to the weekend clash with West Brom, Fergie took time out to talk about Rooney and at the same time have another go at Gary Lineker.

Fergie says that Rooney will only get better, it's all about maturing according to the United manager, but he also said that he maybe needs to work on the art of becoming a penalty area predator, like former England striker Gary Lineker. However, Fergie then added that Rooney will never be a goal hanger. One cannot escape the inference that the United manager was having a bit of a pop at the Match of the Day presenter. In fairness, Fergie had also paid Lineker a back-handed compliment regarding his fantastic goal-scoring achievements for club and country, a record which spanned over 500 games from which he netted a goal every two games.

My own view is that Rooney can improve and this week he's hinted that he's been listening to the advice of Fabio Capello, who has helped him with his positioning.

Taking advice is no bad thing, providing it’s coming from the right people and especially if Rooney wants to become more of a penalty-box predator.

Ferguson recently hinted that maybe Rooney needs to be a little more selfish if he wants to become a better striker, if that is the case and it would probably have to be over Fergie's dead body, but Rooney could a lot worse than talk to Lineker and study footage of the former England and Everton star in action.

A large part of being a top finisher is undoubtedly possessing the ability to be in the right place at the right time. Lineker scored four goals on two separate occasions for England. Outside of the penalty area, Lineker played his part for the team, but it was all about economy of effort, whereas Rooney charges up and down the park, the two players are in marked contrast in this respect and despite his present goal scoring run I haven't seen anything which suggests that Rooney has changed his game just yet.

I personally wouldn't want to see Rooney lose his all action style, it's what makes him the player that he is, but if he can learn something from studying other top players, then all well and good.

Another talking point which has been raised this week is the form of Emile Heskey. Following some good performances for England, there have been rumours of a move back to Liverpool. Heskey is a striker who has never really fulfilled his promise, he's very much a poor-man's Didier Drogba, but they are very alike in one respect, they both fall over too easily for big men, they also win a fair number of free-kicks, a point which was always recognised by Liverpool fans.

Regardless of opinions on Heskey, his new partnership with Rooney has raised the question of pairing the little and large strikers together. United fans have long been talking about the need to bring in a target-man, that man could have been Saha, but for his almost constant injuries.

Ferguson has on occasion signed players based on instinct; I'm referring to Eric Cantona, who was signed at a snip for around £1m. More recently we signed Berbatov for £30m, at present he isn't looking like a value for money signing. Time will tell whether Fergie will be proved right over Berbatov, it is too early to be making judgements, but at least the little and large combination for England has given Fergie something to think about, maybe Manucho will go on to do a similar job for United in this respect?

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