American forward and former Everton star Landon Donovan claims Wayne Rooney is running on empty heading into the FIFA World Cup in South Africa this summer. Rooney, who appeared 44 times for Manchester United this season, has already played 419 times over the course of his short career with United, Everton and England.
Indeed, long-term fatigue may already be a problem for United’s 34-goal striker. Rooney has suffered ankle and groin injuries this season, in addition to three metatarsal breaks over the course of his career.
The former Everton player’s all-action style, together with the sheer amount of games he has already played, may result in serious fatigue. It’s a real concern, claims Donovan.
“Rooney is a top player. In my opinion, he is one of the best players in the world right now,” Donovan told the Daily Mail.
“But the other part of it is that he has played a lot of games and he is tired. He is probably worn out.
“Injuries are a part of that. Things happen when players are tired. When they just keep adding games to the schedule, it makes it difficult.
“Any time you come into a World Cup, because of the timing of it, big players who play a lot of games in Europe are coming right at the end of their season, so it is always an interesting dynamic how to balance that.”
The worry is not only England’s this summer but Sir Alex Ferguson’s next season, with Rooney having little time to rest between the World Cup’s finish and the start of the new season, unless England departs the tournament early.
Just one more reason for the Scot to cheer on the USA, Algeria and Slovakia this summer!
Then comes United’s pre-season programme, which begins with training in Chicago on 9 July, then moves to Toronto on 19 July for the first game.
The nine United players bound for South Africa will take little if any part, unless their countries leave South Africa early. But with the Community Shield in mid-August Rooney may only get a fortnight’s rest.
Rooney’s problem is a factor of heavy domestic and international schedules. At an average of more than 50 games per full season played in his career to date, the striker will have appeared in close to 1,000 games if he retires at 35. It’s an unrealistic proposition.
Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes have amply demonstrated that longevity is achievable but at the sacrifice of their international careers.
In the short-term there are two problems for Ferguson next season.
Firstly that Rooney runs the risk of further serious injury if he returned from the World Cup fatigued. Then if the striker is lucky enough to finish the tournament unscathed, United’s manager will almost certainly need to send Rooney on a mid-winter break.
But will Ferguson be able to do that unless United strengthen in forward areas? While the club now has seven forwards on the books, Rooney’s late season ankle and groin injuries affected the team’s performances more than anybody dared countenance.
Without further support Rooney will almost certainly play another 50 matches next season. It’s a concern for United in both the short and long term.
Rooney’s Career Games
Everton 2002-2004: 79 games
United 2004 – 2010: 282 games
England 2004 – 2010: 58 games