Wayne Rooney: Should He Be Concerned About Playing Time with Van Persie?
Manchester United fans witnessed an unfamiliar sight in the team's first Premier League game at Old Trafford this season.
No, it wasn't Robin van Persie running out of the home dressing room. Nor was it the presence of the world's fastest man, Usain Bolt.
Surprisingly, Sir Alex Ferguson dropped Wayne Rooney to the bench for his side's clash with Fulham.
Even after his poor showing against Everton, Rooney's omittance from the team came as a huge surprise.
This is the man who scored 27 goals in 32 Premier League appearances last year. Often the driving force behind United's most potent attacks, the 26-year-old striker has long had an air of invincibility about him.
That has now changed.
At his best, we all know what Rooney can do. He's a hard worker, a match winner, and most importantly, a leader. The problem is, the performance against his boyhood club underlined a player who hasn't been at his best for quite a while.
As last season drew to a close, United's most recognisable behemoth began to lose his momentum. Not every performance can be solely judged on goals scored, and for Rooney, the minor details of his game have taken a hit.
Misplaced passes, sloppy control, and bad decision-making currently hamper his ability to make a difference.
Rooney may have scored a vital goal for England at Euro 2012, but his sending off prior to the tournament meant he never reached full fitness. Sadly, this was all too apparent in his country's disappointing penalty defeat to Italy.
As United head towards their third Premier League match of the season, all the talk is of another striker.
Robin van Persie's arrival does far more than add another world class forward to United's ranks. The Dutchman provides Fergie with a reason to kick Rooney from his pedestal.
Last year, if the Englishman wasn't in the squad, a noticeable gap formed.
While Danny Welbeck had a decent season, the likes of Javier Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov never pressured Rooney's place in the starting lineup.
Without Rooney on the pitch, Robin van Persie scored a stunning goal within 10 minutes of his full debut.
Behind him, Shinji Kagawa dictated play. He tormented the Fulham defence with energetic dribbling and pinpoint passes. For the most part, the Londoners couldn't handle an attack that progressed up the field dynamically and with vigour.
In the previous match, Rooney's presence took the edge of United's search for a goal. Neither he or Kagawa could find space. The pair often stood on each others toes, killing all momentum by suffocating the same areas of the pitch.
Today, Ferguson showed he is prepared to punish poor form. With Rooney on the bench and Nani dropped altogether, the United manager played a risky hand.
Once he came on the pitch, Rooney once again slowed down United's progress. He is obviously unfit, and his misery was compounded when he sustained an injury that will keep him out for four weeks (via BBC Sport).
These four weeks will be important for Rooney.
When he's back in full swing, it's unlikely he will spend much time on the bench.
With that said, the signing of Robin van Persie finally shatters the impression that he is undroppable.
Of course Ferguson will allow Rooney to shine, but the striker needs to improve if he is to remain the club's top asset.
Rooney is a confidence player. He's a man who often contributes far more than any other. When he plays badly, it's there for everyone to see.
In some ways, Rooney's injury couldn't have come at a better time. He now has time to clear his head and ready himself for what will be a tough season. If last year's Premier League proved anything, it's that England's top flight is a marathon, not a sprint.
Rooney will play a large part in any of United's success this season. The only difference is, if the Englishman continues to stutter, Fergie now has the power to treat him like everybody else.
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