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Wayne Rooney, criminally underrated or unfulfilled potential?

CONTRIBUTIONS BY AIDAN JONES AND ADAM CLAPHAM

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Wayne Rooney’s last minute free-kick against Stoke rescued a point for Manchester United, maintaining their pursuit for Champions League football. However, the strike represented much more than that. Rooney had just become the all-time leading goal scorer for Manchester United, surpassing Sir Bobby Charlton’s 43 year record of 249 goals.

Rooney is one of the biggest names in modern football. The England captain also holds the goal-scoring record for his country, after gaining his 50th international goal against Switzerland at Wembley back in September 2015.

Despite the stats suggesting greatness, the last few years have coloured a seemingly bright career. Disputes about his physical condition, questions as to whether he can still continue as lone centre forward. We’ve seen, since David Moyes’ introduction at Old Trafford, Rooney has moved gradually further backwards, and often appeared in the heart of the midfield alongside Michael Carrick and Ander Herrera last year under Louis Van Gaal.

Perhaps Rooney is an easy target. His life is well documented in the press, which has led recently to further questions over the integrity of media. The Sun, to name one of a few organisations, led the way in shaming Rooney for his ‘drunken antics’ when visiting a wedding whilst on England duty.  However, Liverpool duo Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana had reportedly visited a strip club on the same night, getting back to the team hotel in the early hours of the morning. Rooney was forced to apologise for his actions. Henderson and Lallana did not.

Rooney splits the opinions of football fans, none more so than those of his own club. In thirteen years, 250 goals later, Rooney should have established himself as a true United great. Yet, Rooney has twice tried to force a move away from the club. He’s twice had his head turned by Chelsea, with Carlo Ancelloti in 2010 and current United boss Jose Mourniho in 2013. There was even speculation of a move to Manchester rivals City, following Carlos Tevez.

We hear the ‘United Trinity’ of George Best, Denis Law and Sir Bobby Charlton. All three of these players are regarded much higher than Rooney by United fans because of his attempts to move on. Manchester United is arguably the biggest club in the world, and when you are representing a club of this stature, nothing should tempt you to leave.

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Many criticise his ability, which is unfair. Yes, he isn’t at the level, both physically and technically, that he once was. However, his mentality and temperament have allowed him to maintain his status at the top by adapting his game accordingly. Whilst not necessarily being the first name on the team sheet anymore, he is a key player for both club and country.

Ultimately the stats don’t lie, so to say he hasn’t lived up to his potential is unfair. Five league title and one Champions League trophy puts him amongst the greats of the English game. Recent talk has linked him to the riches of the far east, with the rising financial power of the Chinese Super League said to have clouded his judgment once again. This is a different situation than what he had previously been faced with. With only a year left of his contract, and now in his early thirties, he may need to put his personal interests ahead of his football. With a supposed £1million a week contract on the table, you cannot blame him for considering the offer.

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