EXPERT SESSIONS AND ADVICE FOR GRASSROOTS SOCCER COACHES

What Wayne Rooney brings to DC United

“It may not be as physical as when I first started the game. It’s not just big centre halves coming over the top of you all the time. It has changed a bit and you need to be more tactically acute really to break teams down”
– Wayne Rooney discussing how his style has changed in keeping with the modern game

Rooney shooting

What makes Wayne Rooney such a good striker? In a word – versatility. He can do anything and play anywhere across the forward line. Thierry Henry once said Rooney was the sort of player “who will score all on his own if he wants to… he can shoot from distance, get on the end of crosses, hit free-kicks”.

“He is, of course, dangerous in front of goal,” agreed Brazil legend, Zico, “but he is a good all-round footballer as well. He has pace, awareness and power.”

That’s not to mention his great aerial prowess, his ability to pick a pass, and his hunger to score. While many of these attributes are difficult to coach, by encouraging your players to work on all aspects of their game and by practising playing in a number of different positions, they can make themselves as lethal for their team as Rooney is for club and country.

For example, early in his international career, one statistic had Rooney covering an average of nearly 12kms per game – that’s over seven miles! Proof that even the best players need to work hard. Of his favourite position, playing just off the main striker, Rooney says “sometimes it doesn’t look like you’re doing much but physically it’s tough because you’re constantly moving, trying to make space”.

Time and space

Rooney shootsThey say the best players always look like they have time and space on the ball – well, this clearly doesn’t happen by accident. It’s also no coincidence that Rooney has displayed the ability to score every type of goal in his career. From the long-range pile driver for Everton against Arsenal as a 16-year-old in 2002 and the curling, dipping free-kick on his Manchester United debut in the Champions League in 2004, to his header against Switzerland at Euro 2004 and the overhead kick in the Manchester derby in 2011, Rooney can score from anywhere.

“The more you practise, the better you are in front of goal in a game situation,” he says. Simple.

Where does he play?

The positions Rooney has taken up have often depended on the players around him. Long-rangers were his trademark early in his career, as playing behind Ruud van Nistelrooy for club and Michael Owen for country, he could often pick up the ball in the hole. When Cristiano Ronaldo was at Old Trafford, Rooney admits he “had to play a lot out wide”, knowing Ronaldo would “come inside and shoot” when he received the ball on the wing. After the 2012 season, Rooney became much more of a box player, scoring his fair share of tap-ins and headers from crosses, as well as penalties. See what we mean about versatility?

If you want your forwards to play like Rooney, try the following sessions – we have one to show how he sets up play with passes through the defence and one to coach your players to make blind side runs in the final third in order to receive the ball, shoot or set up a team-mate.

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