Wayne Rooney has never scored twenty league goals in a season. In fact, the best he’s managed is sixteen. But Rooney already has thirteen league goals just halfway through the current season and looks to be on course to smashing his own records by a long way. Rooney’s goalscoring ways are no doubt helped by the fact that he has become the main man at Old Trafford – the one everyone relies on. With Cristiano Ronaldo gone and no replacement signed, Rooney has gone from big player to biggest player and United rely on him a lot. Too much.
Rooney’s excellent form has helped United to many good results but that takes away from how poor his striking competition at United has been this season. This was meant to be the year that Danny Welbeck and Kiko Macheda broke through properly but neither has played much at all. Then there’s Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen – The former plays often but only has five goals this season and doesn’t look like a scorer much of the time, whilst the latter is used sparingly and, despite a hat-trick against Wolfsburg, has been guilty of some poor finishing in his performances to date.
Alex Ferguson is aware of the poor form of his other strikers and how much pressure it puts on Rooney and has now urged the others to do better, declaring
“Wayne can step forward and be the main man but there are a few who have to step forward in that respect. We are coming to the time now. The challenge is there.”
Whilst Rooney has thrived being the key player he is likely to suffer from what every player suffers from; fatigue. If United rely on Rooney too much he will eventually get too tired to deliver and need a break and who steps up then? It’s the reason United have been linked to big money moves for strikers for the January transfer window – because Rooney’s strike partners just aren’t proving good enough.
Rooney’s goal against Hull at the weekend was his first in a few games and it is no coincidence that United have been dropping points in recent games when Rooney’s not scored as nobody else is taking on the burden in his place. Ferguson’s decision not to sign an attacking player in the wake of Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure has come back to spite him in that respect as United have nobody to fall back on. When Ronaldo was injured Rooney would step up to the plate. Nobody is doing that this season.
I’ve no doubt that Rooney will have a terrific season and have his best scoring season yet. At the start of the season I told friends that there was no way Rooney would score 20 league goals, as it was said he would need to get, as he wasn’t a big goalscorer. I’m happy to see how wrong I’ve been. But no player is impeccable every game, everybody has an off day. And those days are when United need someone else to come to the fray and, whilst players in midfield and defence are capable of getting goals, the likelihood of that respite coming from attack looks highly unlikely and makes a striker in January something of a necessary buy for Ferguson. Berbatov and Owen just aren’t reliable enough.