Wayne Rooney, until recently, served as double captain for both England and Manchester United. Just over a season ago, his roles on both teams were defined, and his place, guaranteed. That is no longer the case. The former Reds skipper has left the red half of Manchester, and returned to his first club, Everton. It is left to be seen whether his place at the ambitious side will be guaranteed, but Rooney has featured prominently in the Toffees’ pre-season, and landed a starting spot in the recent Europa League qualifier.
The first major question: Did Rooney start his soccer career too early? ‘Wazza’ as he is fondly called, has been playing at the highest level for over 13 years. He is 31 now, and we can neither blame nor criticize him for starting too early: they say “if you’re good enough, you’re old enough”, that means he didn’t start too early.
The next question is: Has he lost it, and can no longer influence key games or cut it at the big stage? Maybe, maybe not. That still remains to be seen, given his performance at United last season. Some will argue that the last set of managers at Old Trafford after the Sir Alex Ferguson era just failed to utilize his abilities to the advantage of the team. We will do well to recall how managers deployed the likes of Francesco Totti (played till 40), Andrea Pirlo (38), Philipp Lahm (33) and Xabi Alonso (35), all at top level. You can’t be Manchester United and England’s record goal scorer without possessing envious qualities; and that quality doesn’t dry up overnight.
The next question: Why the recent below-par displays? The simple answer to that may be this; footballers thrive when their ego is boosted, and they give their best displays when their morale is high. Rooney thrived, and delivered the goods when he had a Sir Alex Ferguson who instilled confidence in him, and churned out impressive displays for nearly a decade. Compare the periods under David Moyes, and Luis Van Gaal. He was deprived of the hype and influence, and he just could not recover from the psychological damage these actions had on him, when Mourinho gave him a chance.
The last question then is: Will one final push work the magic? And the answer has to be an emphatic Yes! Age is not on his side, he has lost more than a yard of pace, the bursts and runs may be gone; but his brains, his most prized asset, has surely gotten better with age. Rooney will likely play a pivotal role in Everton’s European and EPL adventure. Somewhere in his head, these words are playing, “I’m like fine wine, I get better with age and the best is yet to come”.
For a player who has seen it all and won it all in club football, China or U.S.A would have been his preferred destination; but he choose to stay in the most competitive league in the world, and he scored on his debut. With such guts and determination, this lion will ROO-AR again.