Manchester United Transfers: Is There Anyone Who Could Replace Wayne Rooney?
Wayne Rooney's omission from the Manchester United starting XI to take on Real Madrid in their recent Champions League clash gave several tabloids all the excuse they needed to claim the Englishman was on his way out of Old Trafford.
For a game of such magnitude, it was a little odd to see one of the club's brightest stars on the bench, but the side's performance justified the tactical exclusion.
Sir Alex Ferguson felt the need to immediately rubbish the rumours of Rooney's potential departure in the aftermath of the tie, stating he "will be here next year, you have my word on that" (via SI.com).
"There is no issue between myself and Wayne Rooney. To suggest we don't talk to each other on the training ground is absolute nonsense."
Even with the Scotsman's comments, the media won't let go of the "Rooney Out" story. The Sun reported earlier this month that United would listen to offers as absurdly low as £25 million.
As much as I doubt the possibility of Rooney's departure, it is still worth asking the question "who on earth could replace him at Old Trafford?"
Here are four players whose undisputed talent could fill the hole. After all, you just never know what's around the corner in football.
Starting with a rather obvious possibility, Borussia Dortmund forward Robert Lewandowski has been linked with a move to United since before last summer.
The Telegraph reported last week that the Poland international "regards a move to the Premier League with Manchester United as his favoured option."
Lewandowski has been a key member of the Dortmund side that has swiftly become the most fashionable team in world football over the past two seasons.
He has scored 56 goals in all competitions since the beginning of last term, including five in Champions League action this season.
He is in terrific form at present—he has only failed to score or make an assist in one of his last 11 games.
The forward has improved with every passing year, combining a prolific creative side with clinical finishing.
His partnership in attack with the now United player Shinji Kagawa paid great dividends last season, even if the two weren't the best of friends off the pitch.
Though he operates best on his own up-front, if he were to move to United, one could reasonably expect the return of more of a traditional lineup with he and Robin van Persie forming a potentially prolific strike duo.
His familiarity with Kagawa on the pitch should also hasten the Japanese midfielder's settling-in period at Old Trafford.
Despite being linked with United several times, James Rodriguez remains a bit of a wildcard transfer option for the Red Devils.
His talent and potential is as clear as day—his physicality and excellent ball skills would suit the rigours of the British game to a tee.
But with priorities lying elsewhere, his is a name that has not been touted by many as being a genuine option in the summer market.
Still, on Wednesday the Daily Mail claimed that "Rodriguez is back at the top of Manchester United's wanted list and is coming under growing scrutiny at Old Trafford."
A staggering £36 million is the price tag quoted, but such a sum is an ample reflection of his development and form this season for current club Porto.
Though injury has curtailed his campaign, he has scored eight goals in only 11 league games in Portugal.
His strike to down Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League group stages was one of the goals of the season to date.
If Rooney were to go, there would be no qualms for the Glazers in shelling out the right sum for Rodriguez, even if the two are a slightly different breed of player.
The Colombian can play both centrally behind a lone striker, and as a wide forward preferably in a 4-3-3 formation.
His versatility would give the Red Devils fantastic options in terms of shape, but one would rather see him playing with Rooney, than without.
If Manchester United want to sign Gareth Bale, they will need to put up a real fight.
A fight not just in terms of offering the right sum of money, but in being able to persuade the Welshman to remain in England over Spain and move north to Manchester.
The Mirror reported earlier this month that Real Madrid were "preparing a £60 million bid for Tottenham star Bale and will offer the Welshman a £10m-a-year, five-year contract."
While such numbers are certainly staggering, like Rodriguez, this is the price clubs must pay these days for the best young players in the game.
Bale has had a momentous season to date, scoring 16 Premier League goals and potentially leading the race for the domestic player of the season award.
Tottenham coach Andre Villas-Boas deserves some of the credit for his incredible transformation, having given the former winger and full-back a real chance in a central position on the pitch.
If the unthinkable were to happen and Rooney were to leave, there could be few better replacements than Bale.
There are few players in the game more explosive than the Welshman, whose God-given physicality combines with his technical ability to devastating effect.
He has the finishing of some of the best forwards in the game and is still only 23 years of age.
Finally we come to the inevitable transfer rumour that will fill fans with optimism until deemed impossible by both parties involved.
Cristiano Ronaldo left Manchester United in 2009 a club legend. Despite scoring the goal that knocked the side out of this season's Champions League, he would return a legend too.
Prices vary, but one would have to imagine a bid of around £60 million would have to be made to lure one of the two best footballers on the planet back to the Premier League.
Club stalwart Gary Neville spoke of the link earlier this month, revealing in an interview with talkSPORT "there is no secret to the fact that he misses the security, the stability and the friendships that he had in Manchester" (h/t Daily Mail).
When talking of Ronaldo and Rooney's past partnership, the genuine moments of magic come to mind.
The two never developed a telepathic understanding a la Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke, but their relationship on and off the field always delivered good things for the Red Devils.
But if Rooney were to go and Ronaldo were to come, would there be many United fans complaining?
Without the sale of the former, though, it's difficult to envision the Glazers being able to afford the latter unless a sponsor steps in to help fund a deal.
But after all, this is all just speculation.
If Wayne Rooney were to leave (and that's a big "if"), who would you like to see funds spent on in the transfer market?
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