Rooney burnout: too much, too young

Maninder Prihar

Wayne Rooney’s form, or lack thereof, has come into sharp focus again this week after another sluggish performance in the Manchester derby. Looking at his numbers there are a lot of zeros: 0 shots on target, 0 chances created, 0 take-ons.

Alarmingly, especially you would think for Van Gaal, his 55% pass accuracy was the lowest of any player and his losing of the ball 28 times was the highest of any player.

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This follows a series of similar performances this season, as I have noted on these pages previously. Some said he was back after his goal against Everton but that now looks to be a blip; he seems to be consistently poor and occasionally effective.

It is hard to fathom how a once swashbuckling player now looks to be buckling under the pressure while he should still be in the latter stages of his prime. However, since bursting on to the scene as a teenager, he has amassed 678 matches for club and country at an average of 48 matches per season.

Football writer Gabriele Marcotti noted last year that by the age of 20, Rooney had already played a whole match 68 times; more than double the amount Messi and Ronaldo had completed at the same age. In other words, Wayne did a lot at a young age, probably too much.

This is why he has 187 Premier League goals before his 30th birthday while Shearer and Henry have 176 and 174 respectively. Indeed, Paul Scholes remarked last year in his Paddy Power blog that Rooney’s peak could have been earlier than most players:

“Wayne’s peak may have been a lot younger than what we’d expect of footballers traditionally. Age 28 or 29 has been the normal ‘peak’. With Wayne, it could have been when he scored 27 league goals in 2011/2012 when he was 26. Wayne might be a player who’d retire come 31 or 32, given the amount of football he’s played.”

Rooney then got all upset stating that the comments were “strange” and he went on to essentially say that Scholes wasn’t his friend as they’ve never had each other’s phone number. Charming.

Scholes’ comments look less “strange” by the day and they may actually be spot on. What is strange is to see Scholes now making weekly excuses for Wayne on BT Sport, which often means blaming the other players’ movement or lack of pace. Maybe Paul has decided he wants Wayne’s phone number after all. 

Van Gaal should now find a way to manage Rooney so United can still have his influence on the pitch in certain games, not all of them. Rooney will have envisaged this kind of game-management coming later on in his career but it is only because he burned so bright as a young player that he now looks to be suffering from burnout.

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