Goal.com 50: Wayne Rooney (17)

Goal.com's countdown of the best 50 players of 2010-11 continues with the controversial Manchester United & England forward, who enjoyed another year on the front and back pages
Welcome to the Goal.com 50! In this special series, Goal.com editors worldwide vote for the top 50 players of 2010-11. We count down to the announcement of the winner on August 21 with profiles of each and every player who made it into the top 50...

Wayne Rooney started the 2010-11 season with his stock having taken one of the biggest hits in his footballing career to date.

Having starred over the previous 12 months, the England striker had flopped badly on the world stage in the South Africa having previously been tipped as one of the players to star at last summer's World Cup.

As the new season got underway, all eyes were on whether Rooney could regain the form that had catapulted him to stardom initially.

However, the opening six months of the campaign only served to heighten the doubts over his game. Whether it was a lack of confidence, not being at full fitness or his tactical placement, the forward continued his summer struggles as the season started at Old Trafford.

"Rooney staying was a big part of what we achieved this season. Wayne is one of the best three players in the world, so to have him on our team-sheet is a bonus. It would have been a very big hole to fill."

- Manchester United star Rio Ferdinand

Amazingly, it was not until January 1 that Rooney scored his first club goal of the season from open play against West Brom, having previously only netted two penalties in the first 5 months of the campaign.

The striker had also been involved in a very public transfer saga early in the season. After an amazing press conference from Sir Alex Ferguson, Rooney made a public statement confirming his desire to leave the club, questioning the direction which the club was headed and claiming that his boss was wrong about him struggling with an injury.

A remarkable few days ended with Rooney penning a lucrative new five-year contract – he was staying, although his reputation had taken a further hit despite his apology to the club’s fans.

Fortunately for him though, even without firing individually, United had been able to establish themselves in the Premier League title race and gradually, his confidence and form began to return.

A stunning overhead kick winning goal which handed United the spoils in a crucial derby which helped his side on the way to their 19th league title and kick-started Rooney's season at a vital time in the campaign.

Playing in a slightly deeper role so he could get involved in all aspects of the game, Rooney began producing build-up play of the highest quality, which in turn improved his goal threat.

Two well-taken goals against Aston Villa in February were a step in the right direction, but it was a Manchester derby the following week which really rubber-stamped his improvement to the viewing public.

With the vital Old Trafford league clash against Manchester City delicately poised at 1-1, a Nani cross deflected into Rooney’s path just inside the penalty area.

Then, the Englishman instinctively produced a moment of tremendous skill, acrobatically sending a bullet overhead kick straight into Joe Hart’s top corner. United won the derby and Rooney was back.

A goal in a losing effort at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea followed, before he helped eliminate Arsenal from the FA Cup by adding another strike to his season’s tally.

Rooney was firing now, but as ever, controversy was never far away. After scoring a memorable hat-trick as United came from behind against West Ham to win 4-2 at Upton Park, he landed himself in hot water by shouting abusive language into the nearest television camera.

Despite immediately apologising after the match and claiming he was just letting off steam after a frustrating year in his life, a two-match FA suspension followed at a vital period of the campaign.

That meant he missed the defeat to City in the FA Cup semi-final as the Red Devils’ treble hopes came to an end at Wembley, but he did score a vital way goal against Chelsea to help his side into the last four of the Champions League.

He scored again away from home in the next round against Schalke, sealing a re-match for his side against Barcelona in the Champions League final at Wembley as a promising strike partnership with Javier Hernandez continued to flourish.

As the world waited for another dream footballing contest, United went about wrapping up their 19th league title. Rooney sealed the trophy with a penalty at Blackburn Rovers to secure the point which was required.

"The Englishman instinctively produced a moment of tremendous skill, acrobatically sending a bullet overhead kick straight into Joe Hart’s top corner. United won the Derby and Rooney was back.

The Wembley final turned out to be another bad night for United as they were outclassed by Barca in the season's final game for the second time in three years and lost 3-1.

But the match was one where Rooney scored what could have turned out to be the most important goal of his career to date, equalising with a well-taken strike before the Catalans kicked on again in the second half.

Another European title eluded Sir Alex’s men, but it had been confirmed to the world that Wayne Rooney was back and it would now be a surprise not to see him star over the upcoming year and sit higher in this list come the end of 2011-12.


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