Captain Lifts The First Trophy Of Post-Rooney Era
Wayne Rooney may have lifted the EFL Cup last weekend, but this was arguably the first trophy of the post-Rooney era.
The irony, was that the very trophy he lifted, was won by a man four years his senior.
Thirty-two-year-old Rooney has long had to fight the perception – and more recently the reality – that age is getting the better of him.
No longer explosive enough to lead the line as a centre-forward, no longer sharp enough to be United’s creative and driving force from a number 10 role, Rooney’s influence in all aspects other than captaincy have waned in recent years, but particularly since Jose Mourinho’s appointment this season.
But it has not been United’s newest teenage sensations Anthony Martial (now 20) or Marcus Rashford to take over the mantle of United goalscorer supreme. It has been the 35-year-old Ibrahimovic.
In some ways, Ibrahimovic and Rooney have a lot in common.
Both are all-time leading goal-scorers for their respective nations. Both are considered all-time greats of the game. Both have won countless league titles, both have been brilliant leaders for their respective teams and both have been written off for their age.
But that is where the similarities end.
While Rooney has been weighed down by the ever-growing criticism of his game and doubts over his ability to win football games, Ibrahimovic has thrived.
At 35, not many would have expected Ibrahimovic to excel in a new competition – one supposedly played at a much higher physical intensity than anything he has played before – but here he is.
Ibrahimovic is United’s top goalscorer and in March his 26-goal haul is already United’s best record in a season since Robin Van Persie’s heroics in 2012-13 when the Dutchman scored 30 goals in his debut season at the club.
Meanwhile at 32, Rooney is struggling to make the matchday squad.
In some ways, it is entirely predictable.
Rooney might be the very picture of hunger and determination when he is on the field, but his off-field habits – the drinking and the cigarettes – have undoubtedly played their part in his rapid decline.
Do not get me wrong, the man has every right to enjoy himself during the off-season, or whenever he wants, really, nor am I suggesting he should be judged for having a good time when he is not in training.
But when you compare that with Ibrahimovic’s incredible discipline and commitment to his fitness, it should hardly surprise that while the elder of the two is thriving in his mid-30s, Rooney’s brilliant United career is stuttering to an end.