Wayne Rooney holds key to Man United's title challenge

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Wayne Rooney will be crucial to Manchester United's hopes of defending their Premier League title this season.

It's a fairly simple statement - and here's why it's true.

Last term, one interrupted by injury and a temporary loss of form, Rooney still managed 12 league goals and 10 assists.

Only Theo Walcott, Robin Van Persie, Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale directly contributed to more goals in the Premier League - and all four, except Walcott, played close to 1000 more minutes of football than Rooney.

Walcott still played an extra 250 minutes - effectively three extra matches - and provided 14 goals and 10 assist over the campaign.

Still, on a per-minute basis Rooney was one of the most effective players in the league.

When he played, and he made 27 appearances last term (22 starts), Rooney was often deployed off Robin Van Persie in a second striker role.

A quick comparison with players deployed in a similar area - Juan Mata, Santi Cazorla and David Silva - shows just how good Rooney was in the title-winning campaign.

The United forward provided an assist every 202 minutes he was on the pitch last term - Mata could only manage one every 228 minutes, Cazorla one every 300 minutes and Silva one every 315 minutes.

His total was not the best in Europe - it's hard to beat Mesut Ozil's assist every 156 minutes rate - but it led the Premier League among players with at least 15 appearances.

And that's not even considering his goals haul. 12 last season from 2020 minutes of football, only Theo Walcott, Frank Lampard and Gareth Bale managed more as non-orthodox strikers.

This summer's fall-out should not stop David Moyes using Rooney - especially if he continues to ignore Shinji Kagawa.

Marouane Fellaini was most effective for Everton in the second striker role - he managed 11 goals and five assists - but United won't play their new £27.5m there.

The Belgian international will most likely play as Michael Carrick's partner in the middle of midfield, which makes Rooney even more crucial.

Despite his troubles early on this term, he still proved his value with two assists in a half-an hour cameo against Swansea.

United will need more of that if they're to defend their Premier League title. With Chelsea and Manchester City looking stronger than last year, and Arsenal adding assist supremo Ozil, United need their best players playing every week.

And despite all that's gone before, Rooney remains one of the best in the Premier League.

Statistics courtesy of and

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Manchester United
Wayne Rooney
Premier League

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