Sunday 30th June 2013
As far as I see, Wayne Rooney’s time as a forward has run its course. He’s still a handful in that part of the pitch, but all too often he gets caught out by defenders bearing down on him. His reputation undoubtedly goes against him as he is still seen as one of the most feared strikers in football thus given more attention than most other players. But despite him regularly losing possession around the box, particularly for England, his best games have been when he’s played in the possession keeping role of a midfielder.
Rooney is reportedly unhappy at lying deep saying that ‘‘right now, I’m a centre-forward,’’ but the truth is, midfield is where he has been most effective over the past couple of seasons. He’s built for the job and is great at holding up the ball when he’s not outnumbered by opposing players like he is up front. Note his constant tracking back to help his defence, and his perfect pass for Robin Van Persie to score the perfect volley against Aston Villa last April on their way to helping Manchester United win the league title.
He could take over the midfield reins from the recently retired Paul Scholes or be United’s new Cantona. The Frenchman was never an out-and-out striker like Alan Shearer was. He was often seen hovering on the edge of the area, lying deep and even setting up goals from the wings, particularly early into his comeback in the first half of the 1995/96 season. The amount of assists that Cantona produced from a deeper and wider area in his four and a half years at the club was breathtaking. If United want Rooney to continue in this position then it is likely that he will leave the club. But where could he go to? These are the five clubs he has been most heavily linked with:
Would it be a step down to join Arsene Wenger and his team? If the last eight years are anything to go by then the answer is yes. But with United in uncertain times as they begin the post-Ferguson era, Arsenal are stable and apparently ready to seriously challenge for the title again. Could a new trophy laden period be looming for the north London based side with Rooney’s current club failing to reach the standards they have set for over 20 years? Van Persie won the title last season, but who knows, in five years, maybe the Gunners will accumulate more silverware in that time than the Red Devils. Fanciful thinking many will say, but I wouldn’t bet against it.
It’s arguable whether Rooney is good enough for the Catalans although he may find it easier to prosper in La Liga, which is notoriously not as competitive as the Premiership, although he would have to improve his ball-keeping in the latter parts of the park if he was to join the Nou Camp outfit.
The Stamford Bridge machine fit in with his combustible physicality and play, and you could just see him taking over the mantle from Frank Lampard, banging in goals from outside the box. But would his wife, Colleen, resist the south for fear of her husband being lured by the temptations of the glitzy west end?
It’s not too far (around five hour’s journey on the train from the north of England), but if that’s too long, he could always board a plane. He would certainly get more time on the ball in Ligue 1, but would someone like Rooney put up with the histrionics that the big headed (and big nosed) Zlatan Ibrahimovich conjures up?
Aside from Barcelona and Bayern Munich, there’s not many clubs at the present time that would be a step up from Manchester United. Real Madrid, with their nine European Cup wins, could be deemed so, but until Jose Mourinho joined the club in the summer of 2010, they had failed to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League in six successive seasons immediately prior to his appointment.
Paris Saint-Germain, with their sudden influx of economic resources, are making a name for themselves by winning Ligue 1 and reaching the Champions League quarter-finals after a 17 year absence, but they haven’t been doing the business long enough to be considered the European heavyweight that Rooney presumably craves.
Borussia Dortmund haven’t been mentioned as frequently as the others and have been a joy, but they’re losing their star players and might not be worth the hassle to uproot for. There’s a new beginning at Arsenal, what with their supposedly new liberality with money, but they have been nowhere near Manchester United in terms of trophies and league points for years, so they could also prove a risk.
Chelsea continue to win silverware and now, under the guidance of Mourinho who wins wherever he goes including the Blues’ first title in 50 years in 2005, they could prove a safer bet than United and the Gunners to get hold of the Premiership crown this coming season. Unless Rooney can come to an arrangement with David Moyes where he can stay, be happy in his position and be as effective on the pitch as he has been for much of his career, teaming up with Jose’s army could be the solution to his problems.
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