Posts Tagged ‘Wayne Rooney’
“Villa threatened to spoil things when Christian Benteke side-footed over from Andreas Weimann’s pass, only for Robin van Persie to double United’s lead with a strike to rival any goal scored in Europe this season. Wayne Rooney floated a 40-yard pass behind the Villa defence and van Persie met the ball first-time with a technically immaculate volley from outside the box that rocketed past goalkeeper Brad Guzan and into the net.”
My AFP match report from Old Trafford on the 3-0 victory over Aston Villa that gave Manchester United their 20th league title can be read here.
The French may not have a direct equivalent to the word ‘teenager’ (there being no numerical suffix akin to ‘-teen’ in the language of Molière), but that doesn’t stop them remarking on the novelty when a player under the age of 20 is called up by the national team.
It happened twice earlier this month, when 19-year-olds Raphaël Varane and Paul Pogba were both included in Didier Deschamps’ squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Georgia and Spain. Pogba rather spoilt the symmetry by turning 20 the following day, but it was such a rarity that L’Équipe marked the occasion with a photographic slideshow of the players to have graced the blue jersey while still awaiting the end of their second decade.
Varane and Pogba are exceptions. The expectation, in France, is that players will earn their spurs in the junior versions of the national team before eventually graduating to the senior side. France’s under-21 squad – known as les Espoirs (literally, ‘the hopes’) – brims with exciting players such as Milan striker M’Baye Niang and the Lyon pair of Clément Grenier and Alexandre Lacazette, but although they play for some of the biggest clubs in Europe, there is no clamour for them to be promoted to the senior squad before they are ready. That is partly down to the depth of talent already at Deschamps’ disposal, but it is also, partly, cultural.
Exceptional indeed is the player who is excused an apprenticeship in France’s representative youth teams. Despite Pogba’s widely acclaimed performances for Juventus this season, Deschamps has admitted to reluctance about allowing him to stroll straight into the first-team set-up. As recently as January, the former Marseille manager said the midfielder still needed “some carrot and stick” before he could be considered for selection. Both Pogba and Varane impressed on their debuts against Georgia on Friday, but afterwards the word on Deschamps’ lips was “potential”.
“MANCHESTER, United Kingdom — Holders Chelsea stormed back from two goals down to draw 2-2 against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday and take their FA Cup quarter-final to a replay.”
My AFP match report on Chelsea’s cup fightback at Manchester United can be read here.
“LONDON — England beat Brazil 2-1 on Wednesday to end a 23-year wait for victory over the five-time world champions and consign Luiz Felipe Scolari to defeat in the first game of his second spell as Brazil coach.”
My match report on England’s unexpectedly assured victory over Brazil at Wembley can be read here. There’s also a reaction piece here: Hodgson encouraged by England’s young lions.
“DONETSK, Ukraine — Wayne Rooney scored his first goal at an international tournament for eight years as England beat Ukraine 1-0 on Tuesday, but his performance, like his team’s, was laboured.”
My take for AFP on Wayne Rooney’s England comeback can be read here.
We’ve got halfway-line lobs! We’ve got net-ripping volleys! We’ve got… speculative shots from near the right-hand corner flag! Roll up, roll up, ladies and gentlemen, and feast your eyes on Football Further‘s Goals of the Season 2010-11 (goals presented in purely chronological order):
1. Ciro Capuano (Milan 1-1 Catania, Serie A, September 19)
2. Romain Poyet (Lille 3-1 Brest, Ligue 1, November 7)
3. Edinson Cavani (Napoli 1-0 Lecce, Serie A, December 19)
“GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany — Manchester United produced a devastating attacking performance to record a 2-0 win over Schalke 04 in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on Tuesday.”
Read my AFP match report here.
He may have only been awarded a rather ungenerous 7/10 by L’Équipe, but there was something thrilling about Wayne Rooney’s performance against Marseille on Tuesday night.
Playing in a deep position in support of Javier Hernández, Rooney prowled the pitch demanding the ball from his team-mates and looked full of the swagger of old. His roaming occasionally took him so far from the opposition’s penalty area that he was collecting the ball from his centre-backs, while he created the opening goal with two beautifully measured passes – the first a fading half-volley to Ryan Giggs on the Manchester United left; the second a low cross that Hernández converted from close range. At all times he looked hungry to get on the ball and play.
That Dimitar Berbatov should find himself on the bench for such an important game despite enjoying his finest season to date in a United shirt may seem unfortunate, but it is only when the Bulgarian is not in the side that Rooney can lay claim to the territory in which he longs to operate. Alongside a goalpoacher such as Hernández, who plays on the shoulder of the last defender and thrives on service from midfield, Rooney can position himself in the spaces left vacant by the retreating centre-backs. When Berbatov plays, however, it is he that patrols such areas, forcing Rooney to operate as a more conventional centre-forward.
“[Hernández] has got great movement so I’m playing the position that I did when I started playing professionally,” explained Rooney after the game against Marseille. ”It’s not often forwards get the chance to be on the ball and enjoy playing. I enjoyed tonight.”
Wayne Rooney is a force of nature: a natural, swaggering, street footballer who used to play the game with the reckless abandon of the best player in the playground and who made the dimensions of the pitch seem to shrink whenever he received the ball. He retains all of these qualities, despite his current loss of form, but he only really got the credit his talent deserved in England when he started scoring goals.
With a player as gifted – as potentially world-beating – as Rooney, goals suddenly seem a rather banal commodity. Goal tallies are for players like Michael Owen and Ruud van Nistelrooy: single-minded, stat-obsessed penalty box prowlers, not marauding, bulldozing, game-changing tyrants like Rooney.
The trouble for Rooney is that he is a striker, which, in the reductive lexicon of his country’s football vocabulary, means he is expected, first and foremost, to score goals. Never mind the way he strode into the national consciousness as a freakishly precocious 16-year-old man-boy, or the outrageous lobs, chips and volleys he tucked away in the early years of his Manchester United career, or the devastatingly effective partnership he formed with supposed sworn enemy Cristiano Ronaldo between 2006 and 2009. The English press did not begin comparing him to Lionel Messi, Xavi and Wesley Sneijder until he started converting six-yard headers with almost monotonous regularity against the likes of Wigan and Birmingham last season.
At the dawn of the tournament Football Further posed ten tactical questions that the World Cup would answer. Three days after Spain’s tense extra-time victory over the Netherlands in the final, the answers to those questions reflect a tournament in which defensive rigour was overwhelmingly de riguer and tactical innovation conspicious by its rarity.
1. Will freshness or preparedness prevail in Group A?
Having played just one game in the build-up to the tournament – a 4-1 win over Israel in Montevideo on May 26 - Uruguay took control of Group A before scrapping their way to the last four for the first time since 1970. How much of that was down to their fitness, and not the obliging manner in which the big teams benignly opened up the path to the semi-finals, is debatable. Mexico played 12 preparation matches and also made it out of the group phase, while their 3-1 defeat by Argentina in the last 16 showed no discernible signs of fatigue.
2. Will France’s 4-3-3 work?
How to put this? Not only did France’s 4-3-3 fail to work, but Raymond Domenech lost all faith in it before the tournament had even started. In their opening game, a 0-0 draw with Uruguay, they reverted to their tried and tested (if not actually effective) 4-2-3-1, with Jérémy Toulalan and Abou Diaby in the holding midfield roles and Yoann Gourcuff as the playmaker. The 4-2-3-1 remained in place for the 2-0 defeat by Mexico, but this time with Franck Ribéry in the playmaking role (to which he is wholly unsuited) and Nicolas Anelka reprising his great disappearing centre-forward act until matters came to a head at half-time. It was not until the 2-1 loss to South Africa that the long-awaited 4-3-3 finally made its appearance, but by then it was already too late. Over to you, Monsieur Blanc.
In the hope of provoking plenty of debate, disagreement and downright indignation, Football Further proudly presents – in purely chronological order – its Goals of the Season 2009-10:
1. Dejan Stanković (Genoa 0-5 Internazionale, Serie A, October 17)
2. Eden Hazard (Lille 3-0 Genoa, Europa League, October 22)
3. Daniele Mannini (Sampdoria 4-1 Bologna, Serie A, October 24)