Wayne Rooney: Is Manchester United's 'Loss' Manchester City's Gain?
So, it's all over for United. Wayne Rooney, talisman, star striker and frequent English national hope will be bitterly leaving Manchester United and in an ironic twist, for fierce, newly endowed rivals Man City.
This following the losses of Ronaldo and Tevez in just over 2 years, Giggs's and Scholes's impending retirements and that kooky American owner who has managed to load three times more debt onto the club than even their compatriot partners in crime ever did at the car crash that currently resembles Liverpool FC.
Manchester United are finished. Alex Ferguson might as well hit the country home soon.
That's the media narrative following the massive news that Wayne Rooney is leaving United this morning. And from this event a rip in the fabric of the time-space continuum will follow. Or something.
But, you know what? It's probably all wrong.
The facts provide a different likely scenario of events. A scenario where Wayne Rooney won't be too sorely missed going forward.
Now, on the face of it, that might sound like something even a rabid teenage United fan wouldn't say in their wildest dreams. But look closer and the loss is really much ado about nothing, in a sense.
People forget that for all Rooney's occasional brilliance, Rooney's goalscoring ratio isn't quite of the same level as say, Ruud Van Nistelrooy. And we all know how quickly United adapted to that loss among others in the goalscoring stakes (Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, Christiano Ronaldo, etc).
Of course, statistics only tell a certain part of the story, and it's true that for much of Rooney's stay at United, he was often played out of position or in a tactical setup more favouring to said previous primary goalscorer Christiano Ronaldo. So, it's only fair to consider his assists, work ethic and other off-field factors he brings to the team, too, you might say.
But, what Roy Keane brought in leadership, David Beckham brought in shirt sales or indeed Carlos Tevez brought in terms of work rate and high energy, United quickly learned to cope without too. And often with significant profit both off the pitch and on.
And when we actually consider the off-the-pitch trials and tribulations of Wayne Rooney, on balance, this is where the silver lining might get clearer for some fans.
Wayne's off-field misadventures have become steadily more troubling over the past few months. Forget the extra-marital affairs, the real story has been Rooney's significant financial problems.
With an agent of the track record of Paul Stretford's forked tongue in one's ear, trouble on the blue seas was always bound to happen. If you read between the lines, Ferguson hinted as much when he said he often had to give financial advice to Rooney. What kind of manager wants to act as your personal banker on the side?
A move to another club may seem like the only solution to these problems for Rooney at the moment. Particularly a club to whom money flows like cheap dutch lager.
By early October, it became clear to many that Rooney was for off-field and on-field reasons flagging and only a shadow of the player from the early to middle 2009-2010 season. Rooney, shockingly, hasn't scored a goal from open play since March. For a player of his standards, that's unacceptable.
It's become obvious Rooney has been playing with an ankle injury since the ill fated tie with Bayern, through the World Cup (turning in abject "performances" in that tournament) and straight through to this season. Rooney's eagerness to play means he has been in effect playing with injury, almost continuously, for months on end.
And that's the biggest silver lining to this story. If Rooney's ankle problem is not as serious as the player claims, then United are losing a potentially totemic player. But in my opinion, Rooney has risked permanent damage playing through the injury for so long, and by February 2011, Man City might only have acquired a knackered horse for a princely fee.
This season, Dimitar Berbatov has come into his own while the young Javier Hernandez—who, for someone at that age, shows a remarkable poaching instinct—is beginning to settle in very well at United. The goals will still come.
And now that I think about it, Michael Owen's story should be serious cause for consideration, just from Rooney's own perspective at the moment.
Man City, on the other hand, have a major dilemma if they acquire Rooney: firstly, who to drop in his favour to fit him into the team, and secondly, how to get their salary levels down in time for a prospective Champions League run to meet UEFA financial fair play requirements.
It's possible Rooney will rediscover his form under a defensive Italian coach who pushes his players to further injury in training sessions. I'm not holding my breath on that. But for now I'm more interested to see who United will be signing to replace Rooney going forward.
Ferguson's legendary track record in replacing once-key players indicates United fans will be in for a treat by my reckoning.
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