There’s been lots of discussion for as long as I can remember about what role Wayne Rooney should play, or what role he is better in, and it really is a tough decision. I’m really unsure as to which role he is better, or more effective in, so to decide I’m going to look at his stats for two seasons. Season one will be 09/10, the season he played as the main forward, number 9, in the Manchester United side and scored an abundance of goals before his ankle injury. Then the second season is 11/12, as he played more of a supportive role upfront with Welbeck or Hernandez, I decided to miss out 10/11, as it was ‘the season of uncertainty’ where there were rumours of him leaving Manchester United and he also suffered from a few injuries. So, what is Rooneys best role?
Wayne Rooney first ‘jumped onto the footballing scene’ in the season 2002/03, as he came on as a late substitute and scored the winning goal against Arsenal – a stunning goal as well – at the tender age of 16. His reputation was further enhanced when he had a sensational EURO 2004 for England, in Portugal. He finished the tournament with 4 goals, one behind golden boot winner Milan Baros, despite getting injured against Portugal, consequently the game England got knocked out, and I know I don’t really have to say how, but yes, on penalties. This successful tournament turned most major teams’ heads towards him, but he signed for Manchester United, who splashed around £30M to bring him to Old Trafford. After returning from his injury, he scored a hat trick on his debut in the Champions League vs Fenerbache, and as they say, the rest is history.
Over his years at Manchester United he has played many different roles, whether it’s in the midfield, on the wing, up front, or just behind the main striker, but in what role is he best? To start off with, we’ll look at the goals he has scored. In total, he has scored 129 Premier League goals for Manchester United (according to Wikipedia) with 53 of those coming in the two selected seasons.
As you can see, there is practically no difference, and he actually has more in 11/12 where he played more as a number 10, opposed to the main number 9 striker. However, he does have the same minutes per goal stats, so it evens itself out really, and suggests he gets the same amount of goals regardless of the role, which means the overall contribution to the team should be more important, as the goals are the same.
So, the next thing to look at will be his other attacking assets to the team. Chances created and dribbles a season.
There is quite a big difference in the dribbles, even though it only equates to around a 0.4 per game difference, it wasn’t a difference I was anticipating, if anything I expected it to be the other way around. I assumed that as he was playing a deeper role in 11/12 and more of a support striker, he’d bring the ball from deep more, which he wouldn’t do when playing as a typical number 9. His chances created are also the other way around from what I would have assumed, as I would have expected him to create more alongside Welbeck, as they were often praised in the media or via Twitter for having such a great partnership, so you would assume Rooney would have created more chances last season. However, it isn’t a huge difference, so isn’t that significant over a season, which is starting to give off the impression that Rooney is equally as good in both roles. Making it even harder for me to make a decision for the conclusion!
Finally, the last thing I will investigate is the defensive contribution. It’s not that important, particularly for a striker, so take it with a pinch of salt, but as everything so far is similar, it could be more beneficial to the team to play him in a role where he makes more tackles or interceptions so that he can kickstart attacks from a more advanced position, instead of waiting for the defence to win it back, and slowly start an attack, so they can catch teams on the back foot more often.
Again, it’s such small margins that over the course of the season aren’t that significant, yes he did outperform 4/5 in 11/12, however, none were by more than 3, which is about a difference of 0.08 (off the top of my head for 38 games) per game, which is no difference what so ever.
In conclusion, this hasn’t made the situation any clearer for me and it’s also the opposite of what I expected. I, stereotypically, expected him to have a lot more goals playing as a number 9 and a lot better creative stats playing as a number 10, so I am really unsure! However, it’s a huge bonus for Manchester United, as he’s just as effective in both roles, meaning he could play just behind Robin van Persie or Danny Welbeck, or lead the line and have a midfielder in behind him, giving Manchester United a hell of a lot more versatility, chances for rotation and different combinations for different strategies and tactics. So, basically, Rooney isn’t leaps and bounds better in a certain role, and should be extremely effective regardless of role.