Wayne Rooney will struggle to find any consolation from his statistics as the Man Utd star’s struggles continued at Watford on Sunday.
Rooney awoke on Monday to a fresh set of headlines proclaiming his demise following United’s defeat at Vicarage Road.
The United skipper was used in a midfield role for much of the 3-1 defeat, as he has been in recent times by successive England managers Roy Hodgson and Sam Allardyce.
But a headline in Monday’s Daily Telegraph proclaimed him “just no longer good enough”, while the Irish Times noted: “The Rooney debate has shifted from whether he’s best deployed as a forward or midfielder, to whether he deserves to play at all.”
Rooney was booked for dissent late on and the Guardian, referencing his frequent discussions with both manager Jose Mourinho and referee Michael Oliver, added: “The overall impression was of a player whose role now can best be described as midfield lobbyist.”
Press Association Sport turned to the statistics to assess Rooney’s current effectiveness, comparing this season under Mourinho to the previous two with Louis van Gaal in charge, as well as David Moyes and Sir Alex Ferguson before that.
— Michael Caley (@MC_of_A) September 19, 2016
The decline in Rooney’s attacking production is striking, though it dates back to Van Gaal’s arrival in the summer of 2014.
Prior to that, Rooney was contributing almost a goal or an assist every 90 minutes – 12 goals and 10 assists in 2,141 minutes on the field in 2012-13, Ferguson’s final season in charge, and 17 and 10 in 2,606 minutes under Moyes the following year.
Those respective totals equate to 0.92 and 0.93 per 90 minutes, but Van Gaal’s arrival saw that almost halved to 0.50 – 20 goals and 11 assists across two seasons in which he played 5,606 minutes. While it is early days under Mourinho, Rooney has a goal and two assists in 474 minutes of football, or 0.57 per 90. He also managed just one goal, a penalty, in three appearances at Euro 2016.
Some of this might be a product of his evolving role in the team – Rooney dropped from 3.62 shots per 90 minutes under Ferguson and 3.49 under Moyes to 2.42 in Van Gaal’s reign and 2.09 so far this season as he moves ever deeper in United’s formation. His shot accuracy also dropped below 40 per cent on target with Van Gaal in charge, though is at 54.5 per cent this season – six of 11.
— utdreport (@utdreport) September 18, 2016
Despite a host of videos on social media collating Rooney’s ‘lowlights’ against Watford, including a series of misplaced passes, his passing accuracy has increased over recent seasons from a low point of 80.1 per cent during Moyes’ lone season in charge to around 84 per cent since then.
This, of course, could also be a product of operating deeper where simpler passes are routinely available, rather than in attack with his colleagues all tightly marked – indeed, that same Guardian piece claimed that “mostly his passes were notable only for their banality”. A jump to 40.8 successful passes per 90 in Van Gaal’s first season has not been sustained, with Rooney dropping back to around 33 since.
It all adds up to a frustrating picture for Rooney – perhaps leading to the final statistical quirk, an increase in bookings. His late card at Vicarage Road was his third of the season against only four all of last term while he has committed 1.71 fouls per 90 minutes in a small sample size, a figure typically just around one in recent years.