A close look at the still developing career of Manchester United goal scoring sensation Wayne Rooney suggests that he may be well advised to forget the riches which could be awaiting him from the likes of Real Madrid and stick to the green, green grass of home. The emphasis is of course on the word ‘MAY’ because as a wise man once pointed out “Statistics are what enables different experts using the same figures to draw different conclusions” Those statistics can nevertheless be worth having a look at because they can sometimes reveal facts which had not been previously considered.
Take for example the fact that Rooney has hit the back of the net an impressive 131 times in a total of 282 overall appearances during his six years at Old Trafford. The surprising stat is that among his 21 goals in 54 Champions League appearances, only 7 were scored away from home and only 5 of those were against what are generally regarded as big clubs – 1 each in 2006-07 and 07-08 against AS Roma, then 2 at the San Siro against AC Milan and 1 at Bayern Munich last season.
A similar story is found when Rooney’s England statistics are examined. 64 appearances produced 25 successful strikes but this is where it gets interesting. Just 10 of those goals were scored away from England and 3 of them were in meaningless friendlies. Of the remaining ones, Macedonia, Switzerland, Belarus and Kazakhstan can by no means be looked upon as world powers leaving just 2 against Croatia and 1 in Russia. World Cup finals appearances in Germany and South Africa resulted in complete blanks.
Do those facts point to Rooney being a failure? Far from it. At 24 years of age, the best part of his career is ahead of him with possibly two more World Cups still to come so there is still a lot of development yet to be done. The reality is that despite his sensational goal scoring exploits in the Premier League, Rooney may find that like many British players before him, a successful stint in one of the big leagues in Europe can be far from guaranteed.
Perhaps Ian Rush is the best example to remember. For many years the Welshman could not stop scoring goals for Liverpool yet his only season in Serie A with Juventus returned just 7 goals in 29 appearances. Did that make him a bad player? Obviously not, Rush returned to Anfield to blast 90 more goals in the following eight years.
The truth is that a totally different mentality to football existed in Turin as the one he was accustomed to at Liverpool. If Rooney ever decides to follow the same path as Rush and others did over the years, he may find that the grass on the other side of England is not necessarily any greener.
In case the point that statistics can never be taken as the be all and end all of everything needs to be reinforced, they can be made to suit any argument anyone wants to present but facts cannot be totally ignored. They do show that for all his natural goal scoring instincts, Rooney has struggled to hit the back of the net on a regular basis once he boards that plane.
Away goals in the Champions League can make all the difference between ultimate success and the narrowest of failures as the Bayern Munich defeat clearly showed last season despite Rooney’s early strike. A valid argument may exist therefore for Sir Alex Ferguson to splash a few million pounds on someone who has a proven knack of finding them until Rooney develops the same invaluable ability. And as for England? Quite frankly, that’s a matter best left for someone who really cares!
Does Rooney have a problem scoring goals away from home?