Why Man United captain Wayne Rooney and Spurs striker Harry Kane will flourish
Paul McNamara runs rule over Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney and Spurs striker Harry Kane ahead of England clash
Harry Kane revealed this week that he would be “picking the brains” of Wayne Rooney, as the Tottenham striker seeks a way out of his current barren patch.
Given Rooney’s own lack of prowess in front of goal of late, the England captain wouldn’t necessarily have struck anybody as the obvious first port of call for a young man dealing with his first blip as a high-profile footballer.
Indeed, Rooney’s form in the last few months has been scrupulously dissected, attracting even greater attention than Kane’s dry spell. While the Spurs player has gone seven matches – if his three outings for the England Under-21’s in their ill-fated Euro 2015 campaign are taken into account – without hitting the target, Rooney took until his team’s fifth game this term to hit the goal trail.
The 29-year-old’s hat-trick in Belgium, as United made light work of Club Brugge in a Champions League play-off second-leg contest, actually brought to a halt a goal shortage that stretched all the way back to the Scouser’s strike in his side’s 3-1 win over Aston Villa on April 4th.
Furthermore, any claims that his European heroics would herald a prolific vein of form for the Red Devils forward look to be wide of the mark, with Rooney off colour in United’s subsequent fixture at Swansea. Never mind that Louis van Gaal’s team are still to locate any real rhythm this term, and consequently the supply line to Rooney is somewhat throttled at present: when England’s main centre-forward is misfiring to this extent, it is headline news.
That is exactly why Rooney is the right man for Kane to turn to, as last season’s golden boy comes to terms with life on the other side of the coin. The 22-year-old has attempted to play down his perceived struggles, championing his ‘self-belief,’ before insisting: ‘If I get chances in games I know I am going to score, so I am not too worried about that’.
Anybody watching Kane squander a gilt-edged opportunity in Spurs’s meeting with Everton last Saturday might be prepared to take the striker to task regarding his bullishness – even more so after Thierry Henry and Jamie Redknapp, both working on the match for Sky Sports, analysed in microscopic detail Kane’s loose touch and lack of conviction as he bore down on Toffees stopper Tim Howard, who ultimately saved easily when one-on-one with the Tottenham man.
It is the sort of chance that Kane was snaffling, without fail, on the way to a staggering 21 Premier League goals last term; a statistic all the more remarkable for the fact that the two-cap man only muscled his way into Mauricio Pochettino’s line-up when the campaign was already three months old.
This, though, is the lot of the striker, the man who, ultimately, carries the burden of scoring his team’s goals; the most important job in the sport. And nobody is more in tune with the ups and downs of shouldering this responsibility than Rooney, the player who Kane will link-up with in an England shirt this week.
Now just one goal shy of Bobby Charlton’s Three Lions record of 49 strikes, Rooney is also fast-closing on the same player’s all-time United scoring record. Additionally, his triple against Bruges took the former Everton man to within two goals of levelling Ruud van Nistelrooy’s European scoring record of 38 for the Old Trafford club.
Regardless of his stellar individual feats and the hoard of club medals that he has accumulated in his 11 years with United, however, Rooney isn’t short of critics. What’s more, he knows exactly what Kane is going through, right now. Five years ago, the then 24-year-old dispatched a penalty against West Ham to put to bed a 13-match (or five month, or 1,114 minutes, depending on your favoured hyperbole of the time) drought.
More pertinently, with respect to the counselling he can offer Kane this week, Rooney’s second full season with Everton was pretty underwhelming; certainly when compared with his thrilling emergence into the nation’s consciousness during the previous campaign. When the teenaged Rooney was benched by David Moyes for a game at Portsmouth in December 2003, he responded by arriving into the fray to contribute a goal towards his team’s 2-1 win. That goal at Fratton Park, half-way into his second term as a first-team player with the Goodison Park outfit, was the first time that the Blues’ prodigy had found the net for the best part of four months.
In the midst of his first sticky spell with his boyhood club, though, Rooney lost none of his goal touch when he was away from familiar environs. In fact, it was early in this period that the Evertonian scored the first of his 48 goals for his country, with the equaliser in a 2-1 victory in Macedonia. Rooney swiftly added to his England tally in games against Liechtenstein and Denmark; impressively setting aside his difficulties at club level to flourish on international duty.
Rooney’s record indicates that he will soon find his range in the Premier League again. The same is true of Kane. No matter that one national newspaper recently cautioned that the Tottenham player is in danger of following the same route as some of his forerunners, who blasted their way onto the scene, before struggling to sustain their initial, startling impact.
A player who Danny Murphy suggested should be the fulcrum of his international team’s plans for years to come, after the Spurs forward had torn Chelsea to shreds on New Year’s Day, is unlikely to fall away in the fashion of Danny Cadamarteri, Michael Bridges, Francis Jeffers, or any of the other likely lads whose demise was charted in that recent press article.
None of those players had a 21-goal top-flight season under their belts at such a tender age. Nor did they demonstrate the all-round capabilities that Kane surprised us all with last term.
England supporters anxious that their team are heading into forthcoming encounters with San Marino and Switzerland spearheaded by a duff frontline, really needn’t worry. In fact, as leading lights at their respective clubs, Rooney and Kane represent two of Roy Hodgson’s most valuable assets.
A change of scenery and some shared catharsis, not to mention San Marino’s fragile defences, might be just what the doctor ordered for two of England’s best strikers. No doubt, if Rooney surpasses Charlton by notching against San Marino there will be plenty of observers ready to belittle his efforts, decrying the facile opposition that the United forward has plundered en route to his record-breaking total. These are the sort of barbs that England’s best ever goalscorer-elect has long since learned to ignore.
Kane, meanwhile, is only now discovering that earning your living in the spotlight has its downsides. With the nation watching over the next few days, the main men from Tottenham and Manchester United will be determined to demonstrate the healing benefits of a good chat.