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His importance to United is more evident in their last 30 games against top-half teams, with Rooney playing 23 times. With him United’s PPG has been 38 per cent higher than without (1.57 compared to 1.14) while their average goals scored have been 175 per cent higher at 1.57 goals per game compared to 0.57 gpg without him.

You'd miss him if he wasn't there

Rooney scored nine goals in the last eight qualifiers and of the eight qualifiers in which he started and completed at least an hour England won seven and lost one. However, England did score nine goals without reply in the two matches he missed (Rooney played 45 minutes in one of those two and scored twice).

Rooney’s performances in this qualifying tournament were certainly more significant than his contribution towards the failed attempt to reach Euro 2008, when he played only half the 12 qualifiers with a record of W2-D2-L2 and just seven goals scored to four conceded. In contrast England won five of the six matches he missed and scored 17 times in the process.

Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast)

Drogba played 31 of Chelsea’s games last season and was not missed at all when he was unavailable, as Chelsea won all seven matches and averaged 3.86 goals per game (compared to averaging 2.29 per game with Drogba). However, Drogba was Chelsea’s top scorer last season with 25 goals in his 31 appearances.

Chelsea have also fared better in their games away at top-half teams without Drogba as the Ivorian has played in half their last 30 such matches with a PPG of 1.53 compared to Chelsea’s 2.00 PPG without him. However, they have averaged slightly more goals with him in these games at 1.53 per game compared to 1.40 without him.

Him? Not so much actually

Drogba scored five goals in four qualifying games with the Ivory Coast netting 15 times as they won all four matches. In contrast they managed to score just 14 goals in the eight qualifiers he missed as they won half and drew half. Drogba is certainly Ivory Coast’s main player and he didn’t miss any of their nine African Nations Cup matches in 2010 or 2008.

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