Joe Strange - Wayne Rooney has come of age
Published: 15 Mar 2010 - 09:10:55
While Cristiano Ronaldo and the rest of Real Madrid's Galacticos were bowing out of the Champions League on Wednesday evening, the £80 million man's former side were cruising through to the quarter finals courtesy of yet another majestic performance from Wayne Rooney.
His talent and potential have never been in doubt, but in the absence of the extremely gifted but often greedy Portuguese winger, Wazza has quickly grown into arguably one of the best players in world football.
The fact that his improvement has coincided with Ronaldo's departure to sunny Spain is no coincidence.
Finally freed from an unfamiliar role on the left side of a three-pronged attack, Rooney is flourishing in his favoured position – through the middle.
With 32 goals to his name already this season, Wayne is more than answering the critics that claim he doesn't score enough goals to be regarded as a world class striker. He's already bagged nine more than his best ever season up to this point and he still has eight league games and potentially five Champions League matches from which to add to his already impressive tally.
Sir Alex Ferguson was widely criticised for failing to reinvest the Ronaldo windfall in an equally adept replacement, but the form of Rooney has undoubtedly vindicated his decision to save the cash for another time.
Ronaldo's unbelievable haul of 42 goals a couple of seasons ago might be in our Wayne's sights but it's not just his composure in front goal which has drastically improved during the current campaign.
Gone is the boy who would so often see red, hack down opponents and mouth-off at officials and in his place is a man, a father and someone now rightly touted as a future United and England captain.
We shouldn't forget that he is 24 years of age, more than old enough to understand the game properly and therefore play it in the right way. Yes he still uses bad language on the pitch and gets angry every now and again but that’s because he is a passionate young man who loves the game more than anything and cannot help but show it when he takes to the pitch.
With his ever-growing experience, the fantastic man-management of Fergie and the responsibility of fatherhood, Wayne's temperament has never been better. And with a pace, work-rate and ability on the ball to match anyone in the world, Rooney's weaknesses are fast being added to his long list of outstanding attributes.
After sporting the now infamous 'Once a blue, always a blue t-shirt' while playing for Everton, only to turn his back on his boyhood club for a move to United, I was hardly Wayne's biggest fan.
He kissed his new side's badge after scoring at Goodison Park and even made false accusations about David Moyes in his book – two crimes which Toffees fans will never forgive him for. But after making peace with Moyes, cleaning up his act on and off the pitch and turning in some masterful displays this season, Wayne is quickly rising in my estimations.
There was talk over the weekend that Ferguson might be looking to bring Ronaldo back to Old Trafford in the future but if Wayne continues his development as he has done without the infamous winker at the club, Fergie need not open his cheque book.
And as long as Wazza stays fit for South Africa, who knows what could happen.
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- A product of Brighton University's prolific youth system, Joe Strange has boundless energy and the enviable ability to cover every blade of grass in his Monday blog. Joe has written for a variety of football websites and fanzines and is also a regular contributor to golf.co.uk. Despite being born and raised in Kent, 'Stranger' is a diehard Everton fan and counts his team's penalty shoot-out victory against Manchester United last season as his most memorable football moment. Follow Joe on Twitter @joe_strange.
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