This summer’s World Cup was meant to be the platform where Wayne Rooney would showcase his talents in front of a global audience, where he would brush aside the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and demonstrate to everyone just how brilliant he is. Ever since that goal he scored against David Seaman at the age of 16, Rooney has had the pressure of a nation on his shoulders. He is the one contemporary player who has that unique ability and natural confidence, which very few players from these shores have had since Paul Gascoigne. Although it looks like he will be a target for opposition fans this season after his dreadful tournament, how has the lad from Liverpool developed into the forward everyone longed for?
Last season was the greatest season of Rooney’s career in terms of goals, a season in which his style of play was altered. In previous seasons he had been someone who would look to drop deep and link up with the midfield, somebody to drift around the pitch, chasing teams on the counter-attacks, influencing the game and tempo or perhaps put in a defensive shift when asked to play on the left wing on European nights. His defensive work accommodated the virtuoso talents of Cristiano Ronaldo and Ronaldo’s departure meant his goals needed to be replaced, and the replacement was a source that was not renowned for being prolific. In his five seasons in Manchester, Rooney had only scored 20 or more goals on two occasions. Whilst on the face of it this seems prolific, we have to account for long barren spells the Scouse firebrand so often endured. So how has Rooney morphed into this predator?