Wayne Rooney's focus on his impending retirement from his playing days has seen him offer up some fascinating stories about his days at Manchester United, and the Englishman's back at it again.
Writing in his column for The Times, Rooney discussed everything from his old managers' tactics to nightmare opponents, saving time to offer up his opinions on several intriguing topics.
Here's what he had to say.
On Which Teammate Was as Important as Cristiano Ronaldo
Rooney began by explaining his fascination with Netflix's The Last Dance, which follows the legendary career of NBA superstar Michael Jordan. During the series, credit is also given to Jordan's 'sidekick' Scottie Pippen, and Rooney confessed he could see similarities in his own career.
"It makes me think about my own career," he said. "It’s crazy but if you mentioned Cristiano Ronaldo to a 12-year-old, they would immediately say, 'Yeah, he was a brilliant player for Manchester United,' but if you said 'Park Ji-sung' they may not know who he was. Yet all of us who played with Park know he was almost as important to our success.
"That’s because of what Park gave to the collective and I want to talk about teams. They — not stars — are the most important thing in sport.
"Look at the biggest games United played. Park or [Darren Fletcher] — or both — were always involved. They were vital to us. Players like me, Ronaldo, Tevez got the headlines but they were as important as us if not more, because of what they did for the team.
"We knew that inside the dressing room — and also that because they were so good at sacrificing themselves, their actual individual quality was often overlooked."
On How to Get the Best Out of Paul Pogba
Ah, the old 'how to get the best out of Paul Pogba debate'. Is it a change in manager? Or 1,000 new signings? Well, Rooney believes it could be a change of role.
"Another nightmare is the Frank Lampard type, the midfielder who runs past you: with Frank, when the ball went wide you knew he would be off, sprinting into the box and he was one of those about who Fergie would say: 'This player is not a one-man job — you have to pass them on'," he explained.
"He would say that about some you wouldn’t imagine: Stephen Ireland was one, Jermaine Jenas another, purely because they were willing to run beyond your midfield and with those players there’s going to be a crossover movement from when your central midfielder is dealing with it to when your centre back is. One lapse of team concentration in that moment and the best — like Lampard — punish you.
"That’s why I would love to see Paul Pogba playing deeper and attacking the box the moment the ball went wide. He would score more goals and with his good feet, his athleticism, he would be an absolute nightmare. I would use him in that role — it’s one where, if he developed in it, he could be incredible."
On What Went Wrong for Gerard Piqué
Gerard Piqué famously left Barcelona in 2004 in favour of a switch to Old Trafford, but after four years and 23 appearances for the Red Devils, Piqué returned to Barcelona to become one of the game's finest defenders.
"Bolton away more or less finished Gerard Piqué’s career at United," Rooney claimed. "He was young and got bullied there and I think that’s when Fergie decided that, physically, he wasn’t right for the Premier League.
"I always remember Vidić: if we were going to Bolton — and it was the same when he was about to face Didier Drogba — he would be in the gym for two or three days before, pumping himself up."
On Louis van Gaal's Exit
In a separate interview with the Mirror, Rooney opened up on the departure of former manager Louis van Gaal, who divided opinion during his two years at Old Trafford before being given the boot in 2016.
“I was devastated when Louis was sacked," Rooney confessed. “For me, it was an absolute joy to work with him.
“We should have kept him for a third season. We would have been so much stronger. I felt things were improving and players started to understand his vision. In those two years I learned more than under any other manager.
“This is why I will be forever grateful to him. Not just for making me captain, but also for all the trust and belief he had in me."
Source : 90min