Recently, Sir Alex Ferguson slotted Wayne Rooney into a central-midfield role, where he looked right at home.
Here are five reasons why the Manchester United superstar can thrive in midfield.
1. Team personnel
United is loaded up front. Robin van Persie, Danny Welbeck, and Chicharito Hernandez each possess enough quality to make the first team on any club in the Premier League.
It is fascinating that United was able to reclaim the title with such ease this season considering the lack of consistency in the club’s midfield. Michael Carrick was the only staple in that area of the park in his usual holding role. A handful of others occupied the remaining midfield spots at various points of the season, but injuries and/or dips in form prevented any of them from establishing themselves as a mainstay.
A high-caliber creative midfielder has been in demand at Old Trafford for a while now.
However, the answer might have been there all along.
At just 1.78m tall, but with the strength of ox, the truth is that Rooney’s unique build is not ideal for the positions he’s played in the past. He doesn’t have the height of a Van Persie or a Welbeck to make a presence up top on his own. He also was not built to beat defenders up and down the flanks.
Instead, Rooney has unmatched strength and vision. Combined with his determination, Rooney is at his best when he is in a spot that utilizes his shape and attributes.
It sounds obvious, but it’s something the Manchester United midfield lacks. With Rooney’s power and technique on the ball, it’s surprising that he doesn’t score from distance more often. One could argue that his positioning may be a big reason for that.
It can even be frustrating at times, watching Rooney pass up an opportunity to shoot from outside the box, only to try a finesse move instead. A central-midfield role opens up more space to have the shot and less temptation to find an alternative.
Rooney’s technique on the ball is not limited to shooting. He has proven that he has the ability to play all sorts of difficult passes, including the 40-yard line drive that Paul Scholes is famous for. Carrick is an extraordinary passer of the ball, but is more of a short pass specialist.
With Scholes heading for retirement, Rooney’s long-ball ability is essential for initiating the wing-play that sparks much of United’s goal scoring. Along with Rooney’s creativity and vision, United can turn nothing into something spectacular, the most recent example being Van Persie's volley in the title-clinching match versus Aston Villa.
5. Work ethic
Considering the money that professional footballers make today, some of the poor efforts you see throughout a match can be shocking.
A central-midfield player must possess not only the ability to spread the ball all over the pitch, but also the desire to win it back. Rooney works the hardest after his own mistakes. He may give the ball away to the opponent every once in a while, as all offensive-minded players do, but he will give everything he’s got to win back possession.
What do you think about Rooney's potential as a full-time midfielder?
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