Sunday, November 9, 2008

United: The Rooney Cure-All

Manchester United's current plight, which, for the record, is not a plight, can easily be solved by the gaffer.

Right now the problem lies in the heart of the United midfield, with arguably the two preferred players, Scholes and Hargreaves, out injured for some time.

It was Hargreaves who did so much for United throughout the conclusion of last season, getting a great run late in the season and hammering influence into many crucial European and domestic matches.

Anderson, just 19, is already quite capable to burden the mantle; however, his true utility lies in the next decade for the club, not necessarily the present. It can't be expected of him to fulfill a dominating, influential role for each game, in his youth.

His midfield partner, against Arsenal and likely for much of the coming months, is Michael Carrick.

The expensive Englishmen featured on the team-sheet for much of last two years, without having much statistical impact other than to be mercifully substituted.

Carrick has scored nine goals in 97 appearances for United, which is certainly not a large number. Of course, he is not a striker, and often lies deep to spray passes around, while, in theory, tracking and getting stuck in midfield during transitions.

His defensive ability lacks, though, for the lanky former West Ham prodigy can often be found being out-muscled for possession, or simply breezed off the ball, even as he possesses it, as the case may be.

All players have certain areas they are assumed more adept at, so to be defensively liable is understandable for a player who gets forward, scores, assists, and influences play.

However Carrick's derth of work-rate is not complemented by great attacking vim. His niche is passing, something he does well, but not outstanding or consistently enough to earn his starting birth on a world-class side.

With the shortage in the center, United have a well-documented surfeit of attacking options, a misnomer, in fact, as the squad only has three top class, Premier League strikers. It so happens that all three are quite famous, and healthy at the moment, which creates the illusion of of overabundance.

Should one of the strikers get injured, no one would be complaining anymore about tactical shifts, or which star has more the right to play any given match day.

Of course, while they are healthy, the situation could easily be manipulated to the side's advantage, but it requires a break from dogma for the Scottish manager.

Ferguson's parochial approach to playing Rooney at the expense of Tevez must be shifted to slotting Rooney behind both Tevez and Berbatov in an attacking midfield role.

Paul Scholes used to play an attacking midfield position, when his legs allowed, throughout his glorious career, which in large part resulted in the historic success the club has enjoyed over the past decade.

Rooney is a workhorse. His penchant for tracking back is actually maligned when he is playing striker; slot him into a supporting role, and it would be glorified.

In addition to his work-rate, Rooney is a brilliant, creative passer and a team leader. He is quicker and stronger than Carrick, and might even be better in the air. The energy he harbors playing forward, which, as said, is often expressed rashly and impudently, could easily be displaced throughout the midfield.

There he can win balls and orchestrate forward movements: passing, firing long range shots, and making late runs trademarked by the ginger-haired master.

Ferguson has never experimented with Rooney in this role, and it's hard to see why the Scot doesn't fathom it. His experience and intuition should never be questioned, such is the success he has brought to our now famous club.

However, a departure from the status quo would seem to benefit both United and Rooney now, and Tevez certainly wouldn't be bothered with the idea, either.

Having all three on the pitch, without getting in each-other's way, would give United more attacking impetus, as well as providing needed fire and heart in our squad's center.

It would help to quell the frustration visible on the faces of all three strikers, and make Carrick compete for the sole position he is suited to playing, which is a motivation he appears to need as he floats around the pitch absentmindedly.

No comments: