Almost 11 years ago, an 18-year-old who set Manchester United back £25.6m made his debut for the club. A Champions League hat-trick and an assist in a 6-2 demolition of Fenerbahce at Old Trafford followed, and Wayne Rooney was talked about becoming one of the greatest Englishmen to grace the hallowed turf.
Fast forward to August 2015 and away to Aston Villa in the league Rooney managed zero shots, zero dribbles, and had just 43 touches of the ball – only two of which were in Aston Villa’s penalty area. He was caught offside three times and was dispossessed on five occasions – Adnan Januzaj was the only player on the pitch who gave the ball away more often. It was a crap day at the office in what has been a miserable 18 months for the two-time Young Player of the Year.
While stats in isolated games are easy to manipulate, there are genuine attacking concerns for Manchester United fans, and eager football punters, relying on Rooney playing as a lone striker this season.
- Wayne Rooney has had more than one shot on target in a game just once in 2015 – at home to Sunderland in a 2-0 win in which he bagged a brace.
- From Rooney’s 42 shots in the league in 2015, only 14 (that’s 33 per cent) have been on target.
- Of those 42 shots, Rooney has scored just four goals – a conversion rate of 9.52 per cent. In 2015 he has managed goals against Sunderland (2), Aston Villa and Tottenham.
To add further stat-based fuel to this burning fire of panic and fear, Rooney’s last goal against Manchester City came four games ago in September 2013. His last goal against Chelsea was six games ago in March 2013. While some will point to the fact he has played in midfield during 2015, the difference between now and when Rooney was in his pomp is still quite shocking.
Whatever the frustrations about Wayne Rooney’s current form in front of goal, the Paddy Power traders are still wary of ‘The White Pele’, and make him the 7/2 favourite to open the scoring when United take on Newcastle at 12.45pm on Saturday.
But in the calendar year Rooney has played 19 league games and scored first just once before – that game against Sunderland in February. The number-crunchers in Power Tower have said that means you’d be down £140 if you’d stuck £10 on Rooney to score first in every league game in 2015.
So which player is worth your £10 first goalscorer bet, and who could get the weekend off to a flyer?
- Juan Mata could be the alternative people are looking for at 6/1. In 2015 he has scored first twice (against Crystal Palace and Liverpool) and is £50 up for the year if you backed him every week. Mata has scored twice in three games against Newcastle since swapping Stamford Bridge for Old Trafford.
- At juicier odds it might pay to look at Chris Smalling at 33/1. The centre-back was one of the leagues five most profitable players last season bagging punters £310 if they backed him to score first every week. In the calendar year he has opened the scoring against Burnley at 33/1 to leave punters with a profit of £130 since January 1. Newcastle conceded 14 headed goals last season – only Burnley managed to concede more.