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Wayne Rooney: What's going wrong for the Manchester United striker?

Image: Can Louis van Gaal find a way to get more out of Wayne Rooney?

Is he out of form or playing in the wrong system? We examine the stats behind Wayne Rooney's struggles...

While Jamie Vardy continued his phenomenal goal-scoring streak, Wayne Rooney continued to struggle.

Leicester's 1-1 draw with Manchester United on Saturday Night Football saw hot-shot striker Vardy extend his Premier League scoring record to 11 consecutive games. Meanwhile, miss-firing Rooney was withdrawn on 68 minutes after another poor display. rate players out of 10 on the basis of a wide range of statistical data. Rooney scored 6.01 - the lowest of any player on the pitch.

It summed up what has been a frustrating start to the season for the England captain - but pinpointing what's gone wrong for Rooney is more difficult.

Rooney suffers because United don't attack in the same numbers as when they believed they could outscore whoever they came up against.
Matt Le Tissier

Sky Sports pundit Matt Le Tissier blames Louis van Gaal's system. "Rooney suffers because they don't attack in the same numbers as when they believed they could outscore whoever they came up against," he said this week.

Van Gaal's United clearly play a more defensive, possession-based style than they did in the Sir Alex Ferguson days. They dominate the ball like no other team in the division - averaging 57.3 per cent of possession - and only league-leaders Manchester City have allowed fewer shots on their own goal.

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Yet, despite their long periods of possession, United are failing to create chances for the likes of Rooney to convert. In fact, they are taking fewer shots on average per game (10.4) than Aston Villa this season.

Chances created in Premier League

PL rank Team Chances created
17 Stoke City 109
18 Man Utd 107
19 Newcastle 102
20 West Brom 92

United have created 107 chances in 2015/16. Only Newcastle (102) and West Brom (92) have created fewer. United's chances come along once every 74.3 passes. The next highest figure in the Premier League is Stoke, who create an opening every 53.1 passes.

In fact, when the ball does fall to Rooney in scoring positions, he has taken his chances. Rooney has scored two of his three 'big chances' this season, according to Opta. 'Big chances' being positions from which players should reasonably be expected to score.

'Big chances' scored/missed (selected strikers)

Player Big chance scored Big chance missed
Jamie Vardy 8 6
Harry Kane 8 6
Romelu Lukaku 6 6
Olivier Giroud 5 9
Sergio Aguero 3 7
Wayne Rooney 2 1

In contrast, Arsenal's Olivier Giroud has missed nine such openings, Manchester City's Sergio Aguero seven. Rooney is simply not being presented with the same opportunities in front of goal as other leading Premier League forwards.

The United skipper is averaging 2.3 shots per game, his lowest rate in six years and way down on his best in 2009/10, when he fired 5.7 efforts at goal every 90 minutes as he scored 26 league goals.

Wayne Rooney Man City
Image: Rooney touched the ball just once in the box against Manchester City

However, with just two Premier League strikes to his name this season, the fault cannot be purely down to Van Gaal's tactics.  

Rooney is making 1.8 unsuccessful touches per game and being dispossessed 2.5 times per game - the highest those figures have been over the last five years.

'Rooney slump due to tactics'
'Rooney slump due to tactics'

Man Utd's more conservative style of play is contributing to Rooney's form, says Matt Le Tissier

He is also failing to take up threatening positions. Rooney has had just 43 touches inside the opposition penalty area in 12 league appearances this season. To put that into perspective, Vardy, admittedly a very different type of striker, has had 103 and Tottenham's Harry Kane has had 70.

In three matches this season (against Crystal Palace, Manchester City and Aston Villa) Rooney has had as many, if not more, touches in his own box than the opposition's. Against both Palace and Man City, centre-back Chris Smalling had more touches in United's opponent's penalty area than Rooney.

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The Sunday Supplement panel discuss Wayne Rooney's struggles for Manchester United and whether he should play for England at Euro 2016.

Rooney's former Manchester United team-mate Quinton Fortune told Sky Sports this week that the captain is contributing in other ways. "It's best to judge him at the end of season by what we win and where we end up in the league," he said. "The responsibility of the captain is to make sure he leads the team."

Fortune has a point - with Manchester United just one point off the Premier League summit, Van Gaal has a simple response to criticism of his tactics.  

But Rooney's attacking stats will make for unpleasant reading for the United boss. He'll know their title threat would be far greater if he could find a way to get his skipper back on song.

Statistics courtesy of Opta and, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings. You can also follow all the scores, statistics, live player and team ratings with the new free-to-download WhoScored iOS app.

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