Manchester United legend Wayne Rooney has admitted to one surprising struggle he had during his incredible career at Old Trafford.
Despite finishing his time with Man Utd as the club’s all-time record goal-scorer, Rooney admits that he often struggled and did not enjoy playing as a traditional number 9.
The former England international played a variety of roles in his career for club and country, but was perhaps best suited to being a number ten, even if his scoring figures were always pretty good wherever he played.
Rooney certainly looked a very accomplished centre-forward when he was used in that position, having hit 34 goals in the 2009/10 and 2011/12 campaigns when he played more regularly as an out-and-out striker.
Still, the 34-year-old feels he was never a goal poacher in that sense, and didn’t ever feel he’d had a good game even if he was able to contribute a goal or two, preferring instead the styles of players like Paul Scholes and Xavi.
Writing in an interesting piece in the Times, Rooney said: “I was never a Gary Lineker or a Ruud van Nistelrooy; I never looked at myself that way. I hold the goal records for Manchester United and England and am very proud about that — yet there have been better No 9s than me.
“I always wanted to score but I’ve always loved the game more than the individual stuff. My favourite players to watch were those like Paul Scholes and Xavi and I get more joy out of splitting a defence with a pass than from any goals I’ve scored myself.
“One of my favourite moments, for instance, was Robin van Persie’s strike versus Aston Villa when United won the title in 2012-13.”
He added: “Just two of my 13 seasons for United were as the main No 9 and I scored 34 goals in both campaigns. But I never once came off the pitch feeling I’d played well.
“I remember getting the man-of-the-match award after scoring two headers v AC Milan at home and feeling bad taking it because — in my mind — I hadn’t really been involved in the game. With a different way of thinking, I’d probably have scored a lot more than I did.
“My first game at No 9 was the famous Keane v Vieira showdown with Arsenal at Highbury. I remember thinking, ‘I can’t play this role.’ I was up against Sol Campbell and Pascal Cygan and couldn’t see how I could hold those two off.
“I played better than I expected and the physical aspect proved fine but I came off thinking, ‘I didn’t enjoy that, I don’t want to play there.’ Fighting that urge to come back and get on the ball was tough.”