Editorial (April 27, 2019) — Wayne Rooney was forced out of England. Rooney was a scapegoat for Manchester United’s failures and then ridiculed for his work-rate at Everton.
How has Ben Olsen turned Rooney into an MVP caliber player at D.C. United?
How Ben Olsen is getting the best out of Wayne Rooney
Following his departure from Manchester United in 2017, Rooney told the Manchester Evening News, “I know I’m at my best when I’m playing consistently.” With Rooney being deemed unfit by critics and on the wrong side of his 30s it can be said a challenge to consistently accommodate him in the team.
How have Olsen and D.C. United as a club done it? They’ve built a squad and implemented tactics specifically tailor made for their talisman. Their recent 1-0 victory against the Columbus Crew SC highlights it perfectly.
D.C. lined up in a 3-4-3 formation, with Rooney in between the younger Paul Arriola and Luciano Acosta who played out wide. In the modern game, pressing forwards are becoming an integral facet to team’s systems. However, at Rooney’s ripe age of 33, of course he is not capable of playing in such a physically demanding role.
Olsen, recognizing this, has his team sit off when the opposition is possessing in their own half, waiting to press until they enter D.C.’s half. This allows Rooney to conserve his energy for the attacking phases of the game and keeps him a consistent feature for the lineup.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 26, 2019
What’s Rooney’s role?
Rooney’s role can best be described as a false nine. The Englishmen’s game in-possession is showcased in both halves of the field.
When D.C. win the ball in their own half, the number nine drops deep to help the team transition into attack. Meanwhile, common sequence for D.C. United in transition is center midfielder Junior Moreno searching for and finding Rooney in their own half. Moreno found Rooney five times — more than any other single player. Four of the five passes came in D.C.’s own half, which showcased Rooney’s ability to bridge the midfield and attack.
In the opposition half, Rooney is used as a focal point. Arriola and Acosta look to come inside often and combine with Rooney. The young, lively wingers received a pass from Rooney a total of 13 times between them. Surrounding the 33 year-old with determined young talent that makes up for Rooney’s weaknesses and compliments his strengths.
Meanwhile, Rooney and his favorite attacking options decided the game against the Crew. Acosta played the ball into Rooney who found Arriola at the top of the box which drew a foul and lead to the winning goal.
Ben Olsen’s Huge Credit
Olsen, whose been managing D.C. United since 2010, deserves massive praise. Although Rooney might be one of the greatest players to ever be produced from England, his tactics and implementation of his designated player has been sensational.
Olsen identified his squads strengths and weaknesses, which not every manager has the ability to do or has done successfully. Even less have been able to create an effective system and because of Ben Olsen’s great success his team is sat top of the Eastern Conference.