Euro 2016: The stats prove that Man United's loss is England's gain

Roy Hodgson stands to profit from the misfortune of Louis van Gaal regarding the fitness of Wayne Rooney
Roy Hodgson stands to profit from Louis van Gaal's misfortune regarding the fitness of Wayne Rooney

Six weeks without Wayne Rooney is terrible news for Man United, but his unplanned break promises to help England hugely...


"A look at the Golden Boot recipients at the last three World Cups and the most recent three European Championships reveals that none of those six winners started more than 30 league games in the season leading in, while only one – Thomas Muller in 2010 – made more than 37 starts across the board."

Despite being the top scorer for a team who haven't exactly been blitzing him with chances, 14-goal Wayne Rooney has been burdened with almost all the on-field blame for Manchester United's underperformance this season.

There were even suggestions that the knee injury he suffered against Sunderland, which is expected to sideline him for six weeks, would actually benefit his employers, though a 2-1 Europa League defeat to FC Midtjylland in the very next match did a great job of undermining that theory.

The opposite is in fact true: Louis van Gaal's men are actually a lot poorer without their captain, losing on each of the last four occasions that he didn't start (compared to four in 23 since September when he has) and winning a mere one in eight.

However, while this period of inactivity is another example of "the law of Murphy" conspiring to derail Man United, all signs point to it being a brilliant development for England.

It is widely established by now that Rooney's record at international tournaments has been lacking. Since his spectacular introduction to the big time with four goals at Euro 2004, he has struck just twice across four competitions, with a logical explanation being that he is overworked during long club campaigns spent hustling on multiple fronts and arrives in a tired state.

The numbers support this interpretation. His most successful summer 12 years ago was the one that he entered the freshest having made the fewest Premier League starts of his five pre-tournament seasons (26) and his least across all competitions (31).

The other two that he netted in (Euro 2012 and World Cup 2014) scored second and third lowest for total starts. The two that he fired blanks at were the ones where he was most drained, heading into World Cup 2006 after 44 Red Devils starts and World Cup 2010 - where he got into a barney with England fans - following 42.

This isn't a Rooney-exclusive phenomenon. A look at the Golden Boot recipients at the last three World Cups and the most recent three European Championships reveals that none of those six winners started more than 30 league games in the season leading in, while only one - Thomas Muller in 2010 - made more than 37 starts across the board.

Milan Baros provided the most extreme example of the advantages of turning up at a finals well rested when, having started eight Liverpool fixtures in 2003/04 - six in the Premier League - he somehow found the form to notch five times for Czech Republic at Euro 2004.

England's skipper has started 21 Premier League encounters this term and 30 including cups, so if he can keep those figures to 30 and 37 or less - a process that might be helped by his teammates negotiating FA Cup and Europa League exits in his absence - it has the potential to prove invaluable to the Three Lions.

The 30-year-old is a 42.041/1 outsider to be Euro 2016 top goalscorer.

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