Date: 7th February 2008 at 9:12am
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You remember the Wayne Rooney who burst onto the scene in 2002 and light up Euro 2004? He was quick, skilful, had great vision and could score goals from anywhere.

Now, look at the Wayne Rooney of 2008. He’s quick, skilful, has great vision – and can miss any chance at any time. What happened to him? He could have scored hat-tricks against either Pompey or Switzerland yet failed to get on the scoresheet in the end. He created countless chances for his teammates and for himself, worked hard, played very well but failed to find the net.

Expectation is always huge on Rooney, the best English player of his generation. He is adored by United fans but that also means pressure: we always expect him to do something special. What is happening to him right now was exemplified against Newcastle United.

That game, rightly so, is remember for a majestic team performance and a magnificent hat-trick from Cristiano Ronaldo. However, it was Rooney who was pulling the strings, dished out countless great balls, tackled, ran – and wasted an unbelievable amount of chances. Ronaldo was lethal in that game and that put Rooney’s finishing woes in a stark contrast.

So far, so good during this season. We keep the pace at the top, we are through in the Champions League and alive in the FA Cup. However, with the midfield and defence contributing much less goals than last season, we really need Rooney to summon all his goalscoring ability. His debut hat-trick looks like uncharacteristic now but he is capable of repeating that kind of performances.

Of course, I do not say that these difficulties are unsurmountable. Rooney had a stop-start season due to injuries, a virus and now a one-game ban (his fault entirely as that stupid dive was unnecessary – he would have had a great chance had he not fallen in a heap). As he’s clearly a confidence player and the more games he goes without goals, the more desperate he becomes to score.

But when he does score in two games in a row… well, then you can expect the kind of scoring run that he had in October this season when he found the net in 7 consecutive competitive matches. Last season, he reserved his best form for the second half of the season and he was probably our best Champions League performer. If he can summon that kind of form again and Ronaldo keeps up his excellence, then we have a bright few months ahead.