Manchester United: Why Wayne Rooney's Injury Could Prove a Blessing in Disguise
One man’s loss is another man’s gain, and Manchester United losing one of their world-class strikers to injury is one of the better things that could have happened at the start of the season.
Sounds strange, doesn’t it?
Most managers would see this as a curse to witness so early in the campaign, but fortunately for Sir Alex Ferguson, he can endure such a conundrum.
As things stand, the Red Devils have about five forwards who are in the realistic running for first team duties.
Rooney will compete for his place alongside Robin van Persie, Danny Welbeck, Javier Hernandez and quite possibly Federico Macheda, who was used extensively in the club’s preseason DHL tour.
This summer, Manchester United offloaded two strikers, Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen, and replaced the pair with the more than ample talent of Van Persie along with Angelo Henriquez, who won’t challenge the first team in this campaign.
That means that the club is still playing the same balancing act with their attacking numbers as last season, striving to get results while keeping morale high amongst their ranks as they look to hand out equal playing time.
Last season proved to us that this just isn’t realistic with so many top-class strikers, as Berbatov was relegated to an incredibly minor role.
With Rooney out of the picture, RVP was left to take up his spot as the lone striker in the 3-2 win over Southampton, while Danny Welbeck provided width.
Welbeck is a natural striker, and will be anxious to pounce on the slightest chance he has at occupying that central role himself.
The young Englishman recently put pen to paper over a four-year contract extension (via Guardian), showing that his intentions do indeed lie at Old Trafford, but he won’t want that time to pass without playing in the position he desires most.
Hernandez is in a similar boat, and while the pair may be upset to see Wayne Rooney sit out the next few weeks, their sorrow will be short lived if they are to look out for themselves.
Who will receive the most first-team football in Rooney's absence?
Shinji Kagawa’s arrival at the club makes it all the more likely that Sir Alex plays with just the one striker, making competition for places up top all that more tense.
The Japanese international occupies the hole behind the striker while the wings continue to do the job they are put there to do, and provide for the man up front.
On paper, an attack containing Robin van Persie, Danny Welbeck, Javier Hernandez and Federico Macheda still looks pretty fearsome.
It’s of no question that RVP will continue to operate as the starting man, but the opportunity for a place in the starting XI is greater than ever for the other trio.
Rooney’s injury also has a benefit to the 26-year-old himself. The Merseyside-born forward’s gash is thankfully not a muscle tear or a bone fracture, meaning his time away from training should be short-lived.
This allows the hitman to return to the gym a lot sooner than other injuries might allow, and let him get back into top condition.
Rooney has always struggled slightly with his weight, and was sent to a Nike training facility in the US several years ago, following the contract debacle that almost saw him leave the club (via Telegraph).
This time, Rooney can regain his fitness on domestic shores, and he should be able to come back in better shape than ever.
Speaking after the injury occurred at Old Trafford, the Guardian noted Ferguson as stating:
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“He can concentrate on his fitness now in the gymnasium in particular. He should be available for selection [after four weeks] because he will be able to train. He'll do gym work, he was in the gym yesterday and he will be able to continue that. The minute he can start running that will help. It's a bad gash but he was treated really quickly and we don't expect any complications.”
While he will have most certainly been working on his fitness over the summer, this break away from fixtures will allow Rooney the chance to do more individual preparation, focusing on what it is he needs in particular.
A significantly strong chance for the likes of Hernandez and Welbeck to have their say will be in the Champions League group fixtures, which kick off in late September.
United have been drawn in what is definitely one of the easier groups, and trips to Braga, Galatasaray and CFR Cluj will be good tests for some of the less seasoned striker assets.
On the face of things, losing one of you talismanic forwards is never a good thing, but this is Manchester United we’re talking about.
Just as Sergio Aguero’s injury at Manchester City is allowing the likes of Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli to have their say, the same can be said for their local rivals.
There has been some debate as to whether Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie will be able to function as a pair, and whether the Red Devils’ playing style allows for such a partnership.
That question is now firmly on ice, and the new question will be how successfully the Dutchman can link up with Welbeck or Hernandez, both of whom have around a month to make what is possibly the biggest mark of their careers.
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