With Van Persie currently only a cape away from hero status after plundering four goals in two games and single-handedly saving the game against Southampton, thoughts naturally turn to the incumbent star striker Rooney and his prospects at Manchester United.
Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, Rooney expressed absolute regret over his episode of extreme brinkmanship in 2010: ‘When I look back I realised very quickly I made a mistake’. He also talked of the faith shown in him by Ferguson and Gill: ‘They could have turned round and made it very difficult for me but to be fair to the two of them, the manager and David Gill, they have been fantastic. They brought me back into the team and the club and, from then on, I knew I had to repay the faith they had shown me.’ One big difference exists between 2010 and now though: Rooney’s role as main man is seriously in question. Van Persie has hit the ground running faster than even the most optimistic fans would have anticipated. Like a troubled Catholic, Fergie and Gill’s ‘faith’ will now be put to the test, as they size up their options: keep Rooney and continue to pay £250,000 a week for a player no longer the spearhead of the United attack, or cash in while he’s still young and spend wisely on the future of the squad.
Rooney’s status is nevertheless under serious threat, and the signs are that he will no longer be United’s goalscoring linchpin in big games
As it stands, it will take some doing to outshine Van Persie, who shows no signs of dipping from his incredible goal scoring form. Although Rooney developed a strong partnership with Welbeck last season, it looks like Fergie has fundamentally changed his attacking plans in buying the Dutchman. With the boss rarely adopting 4-4-2 as his primary formation these days, the emphasis has changed to a single focal point of attack, with a more fluid midfield shuffling around to create gaps. This, combined with the fact Ferguson has never pandered to players’ egos so is unlikely to change his overall strategy to accomodate Rooney up front, means the obvious solution of playing the two upfront together may have less currency than previously envisaged. Although there’s always the possibility Van Persie will suffer substantial spells out through injury with his glass-man track record, Rooney’s status is nevertheless under serious threat, and the signs are that he will no longer be United’s goalscoring linchpin in big games.
I have often thought of Rooney as a potential in-house replacement for Scholes, and this would potentially be an option for Ferguson now, but with new boy Kagawa showing signs of developing this role for himself, and with question marks over such a bold move in any case, it looks more likely Rooney will be consigned into wide positions more often than not in the big games. Though his ability is unquestioned, his impact on the game will never be as good from positions where his attacking instincts aren’t optimally harnessed.
I can hardly imagine [Rooney] picking up enough Spanish to function outside of a Madrid or Catalan mansion
There are two reasons that could combine to ensure Rooney’s future lies elsewhere, potentially even as early as January. Ferguson could well decide a million a month is a little expensive for someone essentially becoming a utility forward, with the money looking pretty for investment in the future of the squad. Equally, despite his recent statement about wanting to end his career at United, he may himself be unhappy with a more secondary role behind Van Persie. Ultimately, with Ferguson’s history of delivering on his ‘no-one is bigger than the club’ mantra, the feeling is his own ambitions for the club will set the stall for determining the direction of Rooney’s future.
Secondly, who would be interested? Hardly known for his cultural interest beyond bare-knuckle boxing and ladies of the night, it seems unlikely Rooney would fancy a move abroad. I can hardly imagine him picking up enough Spanish to function outside of a Madrid or Catalan mansion. A move to the noisy neighbours would surely be avoided at pain of death by Ferguson, so Chelsea would appear the most likely suitors. Although Torres has regained scoring form thanks to Di Matteo’s commitment to the striker, his issues with confidence might make Rooney a very suitable replacement. Abramovic also looks to be spending big on his platinum card, so a big transfer price could be on the cards.
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