Wayne Rooney was dropped into midfield behind £36 million signing Anthony Martial, who scored a brace in Manchester United’s 3-2 victory against Southampton.
Rooney has no assists or goals in the Premier League this season and boss Louis Van Gaal decided that it was time for his captain to move backwards. Squawka statistics reveal that Rooney played 56 passes, the fourth most of any player on the pitch.
Otherwise, he was anonymous and looked tired throughout the game. Rooney probably wasn’t even fatigued, but Martial’s electric pace and ice cool finishing made Rooney look average. Martial now has three goals in two appearances, whereas Rooney hasn’t scored a Premier League goal since 4 April.
However, Rooney did miss United’s last two matches against Liverpool and PSV Eindhoven through a hamstring injury. The injury does not explain how poorly Rooney has played in the Premier League this season, for a United side that have won four out of six matches. Rooney didn’t even have a single shot against Southampton.
Squawka statistics prove that Rooney has only had seven shots in five appearances for United. Worryingly, only 43% of those attempts have been on target. Van Gaal’s insistence on playing long-balls into Rooney has further depleted his effectiveness. Rooney has lost 71% of all of the aerial duels he has contested this season.
Rooney’s only positive statistic is his passing accuracy of 85%, which is the 13th best of any United player this season. It is clear that Rooney needs to score a goal as soon as possible to help boost his own confidence domestically at United. He scored a hat-trick against Club Brugge in the Champions League and recently became England’s all-time leading goal scorer when he scored his 50th goal against Switzerland. Although, his league form is continuing to haunt his media image.
Prior to the game, Van Gaal told the Guardian: “It doesn’t matter if it’s the Premier League or the Champions League. It does not matter to me who is scoring. But we have to score more. When you are so dominant as we are, in all the matches, we have to win these.
“Rooney has a range of goals, like Mata, Memphis, Martial, Fellaini. You can count all the goals he’s made. In my memory Rooney has scored a lot. He’s nearly the record holder in the club. I hope he will beat that record.”
Rooney is a mere 16 goals behind breaking Bobby Charlton’s Manchester United record, as Van Gaal pointed out. It could be a reasonable explanation that Rooney cannot cope with the weight of expectation to break another record of Charlton’s before he retires. At 29-years-old, Rooney will be bursting to break the record as soon as possible, but a career transition into midfield is destined to hurt his goal scoring frequency.