Statistics can prove anything, 40% of people know that, and this season's statistics show that Wayne Rooney is officially back. Sort of, anyway. They're statistics, not visual proof, and sometimes they mean what you want them to mean and in this case we want them to mean that Rooney is a man reborn. According to the statistics. Which, whisper it, could be interpreted either way. Positively, though. It's a World Cup year and England have qualified.

Last season was difficult for Rooney. He looked like he was a yard off the pace, so much so that Sir Alex Ferguson, able to rely on the goals of Robin van Persie, left him out when Real Madrid turned up at Old Trafford in March, but in this campaign Rooney has indeed been one of United's better players during their awkward start to life under David Moyes.

The striker recently explained that one of the reasons his relationship with Ferguson broke down was because he was asked to play out of position in midfield, even if he did tweet that he was "really enjoying my midfield role" after the 3-0 win at Newcastle United last October, but Moyes has used him in a more orthodox central role and the 28-year-old has performed competently for club and country, scoring seven times in all competitions. Given the way that his pre-season was disrupted by niggling injuries and speculation over a possible transfer to Chelsea, it is an impressive return.

"The new coaching staff have come in and it's really a new lease of life," Rooney said after a strong performance in the 1-0 victory over Real Sociedad in the Champions League on Wednesday. "I'm really enjoying working under David Moyes and his staff. I feel like I am in the prime of my career, I feel good, I feel fit and I am just enjoying my football."

A statistical comparison between his first seven Premier League matches this season and his final seven last season does, at first glance, appear to back that up. This season, Rooney has played 565 minutes compared to 517 last season. Then he completed only two of those seven appearances, came off the bench once and did not feature in the two matches that followed Ferguson's retirement announcement. During that run he scored once, a deflected winner in a drab 1-0 win over Reading in March.

Now, playing in attack and through the middle, Rooney has scored three times in seven matches – only, all three goals were free-kicks, one of which was a cross that floated in against West Bromwich Albion. Rooney is yet to score from open play in the league. However, his shooting accuracy is up (59% to 46%), he has had more shots (17 to 13) and his goals-to-shots ratio has improved (18% to 8%). He has also had more dribbles (15 to 6) but his completion rate is down (60% to 67%) and he has delivered more crosses (41 to 18), with a marginally better completion rate (12% to 11%).

In his deeper role last season, though, it appears that Rooney was slightly more involved in play, even when he was struggling to finish matches. In those games he created 11 chances (12 this season), made 334 passes (303 this season) and had a pass completion rate of 82% (75% this season).

In those seven matches last season, Rooney had one assist. This season, the new and improved Rooney has two, which suggest he is no longer at his best as a No10 but as a No9. For England, Rooney was at his most effective in the penalty area, scoring from close range against Montenegro and with a header against Poland, important goals that broke the deadlock in both matches. United, though, already have Van Persie for that role and one worry for Moyes may be that Rooney ends crowding the Dutchman's space.

So, then, the moral of the story? Sometimes you should just trust your own eyes, although they'll have more fun if they're watching Sergio Agüero.