Date: 10th September 2009 at 8:24am
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Wayne Rooney has been challenged to take on the burden of goalscoring after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, United’s top scorer in the last three seasons. And it looks like young Wayne is rising to the task magnificently.

With 9 out of 8 games, he’s top scorer in international qualifying (ahead of the likes of David Villa and Miroslav Klose) and has a better goals-per-game ratio as well. In the Premier League, he shares first spot with Jermaine Defoe, both having scored four goals in four games.

These statistics say, in themselves, how impressive Rooney’s been playing throughout 2009. Part of this can and must be attributed to Fabio Capello who appears to know how to bring the best out of him – but his new-found vigour is particularly apparent since the start of the season.

Rooney does not shirk his duties: he’s craving the ball, the space, the responsibility. He’s scoring goals (even though yesterday night he wasn’t exactly confronted with a mammoth task) and he’s dictating the play, controlling the football of United AND England as well.

He’s far from crumbling under the pressure of the post-Ronaldo expectations: he relishes it. He was excellent throughout the spring but upped his game even further for the new season and it looks like that he’s now ready to be a consistent goalscorer, something he never was.

I hope I’m not getting carried away and of course there is a dangerous downside as well: United were often accused of being a one-man team in the past three years but now we’re really in the danger of becoming one, with an obvious reliance on Rooney. Look no further than the Arsenal game: the entire team looked lost, devoid of ideas when he was too far up front, isolated alone. When he dropped deeper, we finally managed to match the Gooners.

So there are dangers. But at the moment we must enjoy Rooney’s performances, especially as he was delightful again against Croatia, even though Aaron Lennon, quite rightly, grabbed the headlines. Rooney is growing up before our own eyes and far from being burnt out, you have the sense that his best years are yet to come – remember, he’ll turn just 24 in October.