Roy Keane's criticism of Wayne Rooney is justified; he needs to step up

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As far as Premier League introductions go, there aren't too many that stand out and live long in the memory. It’s never been uncommon to witness a debut goal or red card from a new signing, but one certain teenager on Merseyside made sure everybody remembered his first steps in the big time some 13 years ago.

The then 16-year-old decided to announce himself in English football with a marvellous 25-yard strike which left former Arsenal and England number one David Seaman beaten as Everton snatched a last-gasp win against the champions in 2002.

Wayne Rooney – born and bred in Liverpool - was the name on everybody’s lips and comparisons were already being made to some of the Premier League’s greats. The Englishman's career began to blossom as he adjusted to his newly-found fame with maturing ease, and was soon able to engineer a move away from Goodison Park to rivals Manchester United.


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The goals continued to flow under the stewardship of Sir Alex Ferguson and key relationships were formed with the likes of Paul Scholes, Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo. Trophies followed, the personal accolades kept piling up and he was inundated with praise from some of football's legends.

A key attribute of Rooney is his work ethic. Demonstrating such a ferocious tendency to track back and win the ball at all costs was earning him plaudits from team-mates and rival opposition. With that said, his predatory instinct and natural eye for goal made him one of the most dangerous players in world football throughout the late noughties.

As the twilight years dawned on Ferguson’s reign, Rooney was used more as a temporary central midfielder, even an attacking midfielder on occasion, as well as his usual striker role. Perhaps the transformation of playing two up top to having a lone marksman was the reasoning behind this, but Ferguson saw something else that Rooney could offer.

Under the guidance of Louis van Gaal, in 51 Premier League matches, the 30-year-old has managed to add a paltry 14 goals to his total, hardly surprising given that Van Gaal continues to play him out of position most weeks.

Perhaps what is more surprising is Rooney’s lacklustre performances. United’s second game of the 2015/16 season saw them clinch a narrow 1-0 victory over Aston Villa, but what was most notable from the match was Rooney’s inability to impose himself up top.

Playing in his preferred role, he managed to touch the ball just once in Villa’s box - seconds before the final whistle.

Having scored just twice this campaign, the Red Devil’s faithful are becoming discontent with their former teenage prodigy, with none more so than club legend Roy Keane giving a brutal analysis of Rooney’s performance in the recent 0-0 draw against PSV.

"It seemed a strange atmosphere at Old Trafford tonight, they lacked cutting edge," he said, according to the Daily Mail.

"Wayne [Rooney] was on about lack of composure and quality, but I think he was as guilty as anybody. He needs to step up to the plate."

"You look at Wayne's legacy at Old Trafford, it's absolutely fantastic, his goals record is brilliant. But now he's the captain there's more responsibility and I think he's got to do a lot more.

"I always question certain players what are they doing off the field. Last week I saw him slapping a wrestler and I'm thinking 'Why is he getting involved in all that nonsense?' There's no benefit to him. I'd have a look at that side of it.

"It's certainly not helping him. I wouldn't begrudge him going out and enjoying himself, but if you're not at it yourself you've got to have a look and lead by example. He didn't do that tonight. He doesn't look sharp, he looks awful.

“Mentally he doesn't look really sharp, physically he doesn't look in great shape. He needs to have a look at himself.”

It’s hard to argue against Keane’s outburst, as the player who once had the world at his feet has become unfamiliar with the adrenaline rush of hitting the back of the net. Rooney’s body language suggests he isn't enjoying his football like he used to - does he know his favoured position on the field of play? 

The 30-year-old’s slow decline is obvious for all to see but what remains unclear is how he can shrug himself off and play with the passion and zest we all remember him for. Despite taking over Sir Bobby Charlton’s record as England’s all-time leading goalscorer, it doesn't look like he will improve his club performances any time soon.

Unfortunately, all criticism aimed at the United captain is justified but only Rooney can banish such talk and let his football do the talking.

Premier League
Manchester United
Wayne Rooney

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