Prolific scorer Adam Rooney was today hailed as the No9 every manager in the country would want to lead their attack.
Rooney scored the opener in the 4-2 Scottish Cup defeat of Dundee United to take his season’s tally to 11 goals.
The 29-year-old has netted five times in the six games since the Premiership winter shutdown and is on course to hit the 20-goal mark for a fourth consecutive season.
Rooney became the first player to notch 20-plus goals in three straight years since the Dons all-time record scorer Joe Harper in the late 1970s.
On 88 goals, the Dubliner, who will lead the line against Hibs tomorrow, is the Reds’ deadliest striker in more than two decades.
McInnes said: “Every manager in the country wants a number nine like Adam who can finish off the good play.
“He is the number nine striker every manager needs in their squad.
“Adam is often the difference between getting those scrappy penalty-box goals and not.
“While the defenders are watching what is happening Adam is always on the move anticipating.
“He is always thinking that the keeper will maybe miss it.
“Adam is always gambling that can happen.”
Rooney took that instinctive striker’s gamble for the opener in the New Firm derby when latching on to a Gary Mackay-Steven volley that bounced on the pitch in front of the keeper.
Rooney was on hand to head in from a yard and took a knock in the face for his troubles. It was a pure predatory penalty- box striker’s goal – and set the Reds on the way to a quarter-final showdown with Kilmarnock.
McInnes said: “As he does more often than not Adam got the ball over the line for us.
“As soon as the ball goes over his head from the right he is on the move.
“He is anticipating that the keeper may miss it or a defender may miss it.
“Adam had a job to get it over the line but he anticipated and was brave as well, like all good number nines.
“He took a belt in the mouth to get the ball over the line.
“However, Adam was always on the move to get his trademark six-yard goal.”
Rooney is on course for the 20-goal mark again, despite missing the first six weeks of the season through injury.
His recent form has coincided with the return to Pittodrie of the Northern Ireland international Niall McGinn.
The winger, 30, left Pittodrie last summer having rejected the offer of a new contact.
He eventually signed on at Gwangju in South Korea. After four months his contract was terminated by mutual consent and Dons boss McInnes swooped to secure his return on a long-term deal until summer 2021.
Rooney recently admitted he has a unique understanding with McGinn, who previously spent five years at the Dons.
Rooney knows where the winger will deliver the ball and can time his runs accordingly. It is a bond that is already paying dividends.
McInnes said: “Since Niall has come back he has been involved in many of the goals we have scored. He has also got a couple himself.
“That shows how important Niall is to us.
“Out wide we also have Gary Mackay-Steven, Greg Stewart, Scott Wright and Ryan Christie when he plays there and they are all so important to us.
“They are all so important to Adam and he is probably more pleased than anyone to have Niall back.”
However, you get the sense no one is happier than McInnes to have the winger not just back at Pittodrie, but with the security of a three-and-a-half year contract.
Hearts and Hibs had both coveted McGinn’s signature while he was a free agent.
The courting by tomorrow’s opponents Hibs got to the advanced stage of boss Neil Lennon taking the winger to the 2-2 draw with Celtic as a guest in December.
However, McGinn opted to return to the Granite City in a move that Pittodrie legend Willie Miller recently claimed was the best transfer of the January window by a Scottish club.
McInnes said: “He looks more vibrant than the Niall McGinn we had towards the end of his time here last time.
“I think he was a tired player, to be honest.
“Niall brought us brilliant service and was in need of a break. He probably didn’t go to South Korea for a break the way he intended.
“But he didn’t play so much and got a decent break.
“Niall has come back with a renewed energy and real focus. He has certainly given Adam a lift as he has that calmness in the final third.”
McGinn netted a superb solo goal in the 3-1 defeat of Kilmarnock, running from deep in his own half before slamming home a 25-yard drive.
He also scored in the 3-0 defeat of Hamilton and has been at the heart of the build-up to many goals since his return.
McInnes said: “Niall has been brilliant since he came back. What I am also seeing is a really happy boy as well.
“I have seen him smiling a lot more since he came back.
“He certainly looks in a good place. His game can sometimes be the difference for us in separating tight and hard-fought games with his quality from set-plays and open play.
“His goal return is also invaluable for us.”
Between them McGinn and Rooney have netted 158 goals for Aberdeen with the winger now on 70. Both have targeted the century club.
Only nine Aberdeen players have hit the 100-goal mark for the Reds with the last Gothenburg Great Mark McGhee in 1983-84.
McInnes said: “Niall was my first January signing and we had to wait to get him up to speed and get minutes into him. But he is without doubt a huge player for me.
“Niall brings that real calmness and quality.”