Thoughts of a Manchester United season ticket holder
Wednesday, 6 January 2010
The Rooney Obsession
So the wound caused by the defeat to the Yorkshire filth is starting to heal with a very faint scar in place.
The reaction to the game has had United fans react in so many different ways..from total apathy to manic hysteria..this is the norm whenever the reds lose. Many have started to point fingers at individuals. Blog writers have started their autopsy on the young players of the squad, the older members of our team, and of course our very own current fan's pariah Dimitar Berbatov. It is human nature that when things start to go wrong we look for the easiest target and we go for the jugular. However, Ive always believed in prevention rather than cure...firefighting gets you absolutely no where. Ive read (for want of a better word) 'attacks' on Gibson, Owen, Berba, Anderson, etc etc...and I'm afraid to say they are all pretty hollow assessments as to why we are playing like a bunch of schoolgirls.
The one player that seems to skip under the radar though is a certain golden child who plays up front. The all action, scouse marauder, savior of English football...Mr Wayne Rooney. Firstly, i love Wazza as much as anyone. He is a modern United legend..and still only about 15 years old (don't be fooled by that receding hairline!) With Ronnie and Filthbag Moneysucker gone, he is without doubt our singular most important player..
..And that's where the trouble begins
Every Englishman and woman appear to have the obsession that no matter what, no matter how good or shit we are playing, that Rooney MUST MUST MUST play up front. And why is this? Its because..erm..he is..erm..a genius. And genius can do no wrong. Genius will always find the back of the net. The strange thing about the monster which is Wayne Rooney is that the weakest part of his game is his finishing and his general goal tally for a centre forward..yet the world and their mothers still insist that he plays up top.
I watch the boy wonder every week. On the telly its easy to assume that he is infallible. On the ball, turning at players he is excellent. Better than excellent at times! But what you don't see on the TV is his off the ball work and the way he interacts with whoever his strike partner is (generally Berbatov) And that side of his game needs ALOT of work. The only player i have ever seen Rooney really gel with up top for any amount of time was when Carlos Tevez first joined the club, and they looked like mental midget twins terrifying the opposition with intuitive artistry. Has he ever hit it off with anyone at international level? Michael Owen? Nope. Emile Heskey? A little bit. But the fact is that when he plays as the primary central striker, whoever plays second fiddle to him normally gets a bum deal.
And the question has to be raised...why?
Its not that Rooney isn't intelligent. Or that he is greedy. Or that he does not care. However, i feel his cavalier attitude (something we all love about him) is his biggest weakness. Maybe with the years this will change. We know he isn't the nutjob he used to be. The mouth still barks at referees way too much but he isn't trying to kill anyone anymore. But it does not disguise the fact that if you micro analyse the things that makes a team tick..especially a team like Manchester United, that Rooney does not cut it as the centre forward. Now of course, the boy is scoring goals this year, and I'm sure that is the bomb that many will throw in my face after this article is published to the Interweb World. However my retort will be three words:
Ruud Van Nistelrooy
Ruud used to score goals..and LOTS of them. But during his five year tenure there was just one league championship, an FA cup win, and the Mickey Mouse cup. No European finals. No consistency in success. Rubbish. Now its fair to say that this wasn't Ruud's fault. 150 goals in 219 games proves his contribution. But the problem with having Ruud Van Nistelrooy up front was that IT WAS ALL ABOUT RUUD VAN NISTELROOY. If he didn't score then invariably we wouldn't win. I'm starting to see a mirror image with Rooney. Once again you could argue that this isn't Wazza's fault.. Hes paid to score goals. But United last three years of phenomenal success have come after Fergie ditched the idea of having just the one hitman and decided we needed a more complete threat from the team.
So what does this all mean? Well, to me its relatively simple. Yes, we could go out and break the bank, and I'm convinced that at some point the manager will bring in new faces. But for the time being we need to play to our strengths AS A TEAM. Not to individuals talents. I'm definitely not saying "lets drop Rooney" or "flog him to Real Madrid" But the times i have been most impressed with him is when he can drop deep, turn onto the opponent and terrorize them face on...a bit like Lionel Messi does for Barcelona. Would you call Messi a winger? No. But he attacks from a wide position. And that is what we should do with Wazza. This means we would have more of a threat on the pitch in either a 4-4-2, 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 formation. At the moment we are trying to get 10 players to feed a singular entity up front. Been there..done that..won nothing.
There is no doubting that the team has to take all of this on the chin..its a collective issue. But for me the games we have lost this season have come from our inability to score at vital times. Yes the defence has been bonk and our midfield have looked like amateurs at times, but it is worrying when our ability to score goals weighs so heavily one player. Yes, Ronaldo did score most of the goals of the last three years, but as in the 90s the goals were shared out among several players. Goal threats were everywhere. At the moment we have Michael Owen warming a bench he doesn't deserve to be sitting on. What could we be if we managed to integrate him, Berba and Roo in the same side? It would be awesome...and it IS possible.
Rooney will never be a Ryan Giggs..running down the wing. But he has the talent and God given ability to diversify and do a top class job for the team. Berba WILL play better with Owen up top with him (someone who will properly work the channels for him..Roo drops too deep for this) and Michael Owen will do what he does best - guarantee you 20 league goals a season. I know this can work. I hope Sir Alex gives it a pop against Birmingham
Manchester United fan since the age of 9 when he saw Norman Whiteside curl the ball into a Wembley goal in the dying minutes.
He is an Old Trafford season ticket holder in the North Stand Tier 3...and cried tears of joy, on his knees with the many in Moscow.
Rob is a contributing author/editor at Man Utd blogzine 'The Faithful'