Former AC Milan and Netherlands midfielder Ruud Gullit believes Wayne Rooney has been unfairly messed about by several Manchester United managers.
Rooney cemented himself as a first-team regular at Old Trafford almost instantly after arriving in 2004, but was slowly pushed to one side by Sir Alex Ferguson during the Scot’s final season as Man United manager.
Since then, Rooney has acquired a regular place in the starting XI, and has been used in a variety of positions whilst under the tutelage of David Moyes, Ryan Giggs, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho, often fluctuating between playing as a No.9, a No.10 or a central midfielder.
Speaking to the Mirror, Gullit claimed Rooney’s constant changing of positions has served as a detriment to his career.
“I’ve seen so many coaches or managers over the years mess Rooney about,” he said.
“They’ve been juggling him between the No.10 position, the striker’s position or an attacking role from the left. Sir Alex, in the end, used him in that role.
“I feel that Wayne has never been able to focus on one position during his career. Rooney is a player who could play very well in the No.10 position, as a kind of a fake striker.
“Somehow it was always depending of the players around him, or the way the opposition played, where managers decided to put Rooney in the team.
“The fact is that that all these changes of positions for him in different games and under different managers led to continuous debates about his ideal role and position.
“I feel sorry for him as I don’t think Rooney will ever be without this massive debate during the rest of his career. People will never stop discussing his position.”
I find it hard to sympathise with Rooney over this particular issue. Yes, he has been moved around quite frequently, but is it any different to the likes of Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes during the latter stages of their careers? Even more recently, take the cases of Daley Blind and Ashley Young: both have been deployed in a variety of different roles; have they suffered the same terminal decline in form as Rooney? No.
The hallmark of a top player is an ability to feature in a variety of positions whilst maintaining the same level of potency; Rooney has no god-given right to feature in one specific role that suits him best. No, the job of any player – regardless of reputation – is to play in the role demanded of you. In this sense, the managers in question are not at fault here; the blame ought to be directed at the captain himself.