herald

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Burnt out Wayne wins awards but Martial is the way forward for Louis

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney

Everywhere he turns these days there's someone standing with an award to give him. Wayne Rooney is a bit like the Queen. New paint and finger food everywhere he goes.

Via the accumulation of time and a career to date unusually free of muscle injuries for someone who uses pace as a weapon, Rooney has either overtaken, equalled or is closing in on a bewildering array of statistical benchmarks.

He has all of the trappings of a global great of the game but increasingly, he looks like a tribute act, not quite the real deal but good enough to remind you of the good times.

Last night's tussle with CSKA was billed as Wayne's return to the city of his greatest triumph when he lifted the Champions League trophy in 2008.

But he was also on the brink of equalling Denis Law's Manchester United goals total, just 12 short of Bobby Charlton's mark and Ruud van Nistlerooy's Champions League scoring record was also under threat.

Wearing a strip designed by someone who wore shell suits in the 80's, Rooney looked like he was in the humour to do some damage in the early moments of this one.

But as has so often be the case in the past, his ultimate contribution to the game was poor. He turns 30 in a few days and before this game, he wanted everyone to know that he feels like could on for a long time yet. That he's 'fresh'.

He doesn't look fresh. He looks hollowed out by more than a decade billed as the great hope for English football and in the last three or four seasons has rarely showed the genius he is capable of.

When he's in this humour, you wonder how he collected so much along the way and became an English institution, like Coronation Street or Eastenders.

Status

When you acquire that status, you can do things like increase the amount of hair you have regularly and get away with it. Rooney follows the season observed by some rice farmers when it comes to his head; a new crop every six months.

On the pitch, Wayne is waning fast and although Louis van Gaal has invested a great deal in his captain since he arrived at Old Trafford, even he must see that Rooney will never lead the club the same way Bryan Robson or Roy Keane did.

Maybe Anthony Martial can do that. He won a point for Van Gaal in Moscow while his skipper laboured.

He has something about him,Martial and more authority than Rooney ever showed when he arrived at Old Trafford as a teenager.

No doubt Rooney will continue his peculiar victory parade in the coming months and stand for the snaps looking slightly bemused by it all but over the long haul, Martial is the way forward.

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