Date: 29th March 2011 at 3:30pm
Written by:

Seven and a half years ago we were instructed, after a 25-yard winning strike against Arsenal, by a now famous piece of commentary, to ‘remember the name – Wayne Rooney!’

More recently, the Manchester United striker has been escaping punishments for on-field assault faster than the hair has been escaping from his scalp. Several accusations of adultery and a candid threat to leave Old Trafford later, is ’s greatest attacking potential of the new century failing to live up to his billing and encouraging significant concern for both his club and country?

It cannot be denied that the Croxteth-born attacker has endured a horrifying and demoralising 12 months. This Wednesday marks the anniversary of the ankle injury Rooney sustained in the first leg of United’s  quarter-final against Bayern Munich, and the first episode in a series of personal and footballing disappointments for last season’s PFA Fans’ Player of the Year. Rooney failed to find the net since the match at the Allianz Arena until converting a penalty against West Ham at the end of August, and scored his first goal from open-play this season against West Brom on New Years Day.

It goes without saying that ’s number 10 was one of several noteworthy failures at last summer’s World Cup, but Rooney had already achieved a considerable amount before he left Heathrow for Johannesburg and is starting to yet again demonstrate his worth. At 25, Rooney is close to completing his eighth full season as a senior professional and has 70 England caps under his belt. With 26 goals for his country he’s not quite matched the international form of David Villa (46 in 72, and now all-time Spanish record goal-scorer), or evenPeter Crouch (22 in 42, 23 of those appearances coming on as a sub), but it represents a decent return for a striker of his age.

What’s more, his record of a goal nearly every other game for United (140 in 311) is an acceptable total for a world-class finisher. In fact it’s strikingly close to what his United team-mate, Michael Owen, achieved in his seven and a bit seasons withLiverpool, eventually prompting Real Madrid, the club Rooney conspicuously flirted with last Autumn, to sign the striker.

Rooney has publicly admitted his recent frustrations and last month conceded to the “it has been a difficult season for me – probably the worst I’ve ever had.” However, his recent form has transformed his scoring performance in the League to one in three, and has netted 8 times overall since the turn of the year. Rooney has confirmed he feels fresh, “at a time when most players are picking up injuries or feeling jaded,” and his recent exploits have vindicated his confidence. It seems likely that, barring any unanticipated injury setbacks, the man who at 16 years of age curled a rocket past David Seaman on his Everton debut, will propel United to glory this season as he gradually rediscovers his touch.

He will labour to ever convince the public of his moral credentials and will struggle to ease the expectations showered on him having emerged at such a tender age, but his talent, above all else, has remained constant through his yet unfinished career. Having originally been described as a ‘blip,’ Rooney’s darkest spell in professional football, spanning at least 9 months from last March, appears to be at its end. With no less than another seven years remaining at the top of the game, Rooney currently resembles a player determined to expand his trophy collection beyond the Champions League, 3 Premier Leagues and 2 League Cups he’s already earned.

His country revealed their potential in Saturday’s 2-0 defeat of Wales with promising performances from Jack Wilshere and Ashley Young, but have to re-acknowledge Rooney as the country’s most gifted attacking talent if 45 years of hurt are going to cease any time soon. United have stuck by the player having awarded him a lucrative and long-term contract, and will be proved right in trusting last season’s Player of the Year.

Written by Josh Sheridan of Football Fancast