Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney has dismissed suggestions that his good form this season is down to improved fitness, insisting he was just as fit last season.
Sir Alex Ferguson wrote in his recent book that he felt during last season Rooney “was struggling to get by people and had lost some of his old thrust” and that “he seemed to tire in games”. As a result he omitted him from matches against teams with high energy.
But Rooney, 28, has no truck with such insinuations. “My statistics are the same as last season but my fitness is being noticed this season,” he said after England’s match with Germany.
Ferguson also wrote of Rooney having “a big solid frame” and a physique that meant “it was always hard to imagine him playing into his mid-thirties”. He stated Rooney “has great qualities about him but they could be swallowed up by a lack of fitness”.
He compared Rooney unfavourably with the way Cristiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs “looked after themselves” adding Rooney “needed to grasp the nettle”.
Rooney, though, says he has long taken a keen interest in the technical feedback he receives from his performances in training sessions and matches.
“I have all the stats,” said Rooney, who is expected to start for United at Cardiff City today. “Every player gets them from every game and every training session. I go through them every day. It is important to know what you are doing.”
This was, he said, because it was important to know when he should train less, not more. “When you are young you want to train every day, but maybe towards end of season you have to maybe do less,” he added.
Perception, though, can be everything. It seems merely playing with a smile on his face, and an enthusiasm for the game, can persuade people he is fitter. His manager, David Moyes, ascribed his form this season to Rooney being “lean, fast and hungry”. Speaking in September, the United manager added: “The big thing is he got himself into really good shape physically. I needed [that] from him if I was ever going to get Wayne back to the level he is at.”
Maybe the most significant aspect is that the frequency of Rooney’s matches this season has ensured he stays match fit rather than just fit.
The former Everton forward has missed only two of United’s 17 League and cup games this season, and played five England games including more minutes (162) in the two internationals last week than any other player.
He said: “I wanted to play. I spoke to the manager before and he wanted to try and get others on and give me a rest, but I wanted to play. I feel good.”
Cardiff City v Manchester United is live on Sky Sports 1, kick-off 4pm