Manchester United's seaside jaunt to face an attacking-styled Blackpool promised to be an open affair, but United manager Alex Ferguson wasn't in on the plot. Instead he erred with a pusillanimous 4-5-1 to open the game, a questionable setup with questionable selections.
Rooney was on the left, where he often is over the years when the season's final third, and United's forays into Europe, become the priority. Sadly he has looked physically disinterested and, perhaps therefore, completely ineffective in that role so far this season (and usually in those past.)
Now, we all love to see him track back and make tackles. It's easy to hang your hat on that shit if your simpleton desire is to be an utter Rooney mark. But he's never going to make it to the byline or get outside and past the opposing right back when he's in that position. He can't dribble across his body and he's not particularly fast.
Also, Darren Gibson was preferred in the middle with two players who actually belonged, Fletcher and Scholes, despite Gibson having a poor season without any two games of clear repute on the trot.
It made no goddamn sense. Ferguson was afraid of Blackpool's attacks. And attack is all they did in the first half against United's unbalanced and unorganized hodgepodge of a formation.
First Half Sad Face
As I sort of implied, Blackpool were far superior in the first half. Charlie Adam lived up to his hype in the frame, creating countless chances with piercing, curling, left-footed through balls. United were on the back foot and offered little going forward.
The Seasiders scored twice from Adam corner kicks. The first tally arrived on 15 minutes with former United reserve Craig Cathcart assuredly heading home.
United weren't ready to pull up their pants yet. Ferguson's nebulous formation continually failed to achieve anything going forward. They had no width, Rooney was abhorrent and Gibson sucked again.
On 43 minutes, another Adam corner was flicked to and headed in by DJ Campbell. Blackpool heroically led 2-0 at the break.
At halftime Ferguson appeared to remember he's one of the greatest managers in English football and has a pair of huge, swinging bollocks. After cathartically yelling at his players, he finally took off Gibson for Giggs, reverting to a natural 4-4-2.
Here Berbatov and Rooney were up top, Fletcher and Scholes patrolled the middle, while Nani and Giggs carried the team on their natural wings. Harmony; brilliance. But despite their improved football, there was still something missing.
At the 70th minute, I thought, "We must get Hernandez into this game." But who would he replace? Berbatov? That leaves a pairing of Rooney and Hernandez, with no one to win headers or retain possession.
"But Rooney scored 11 headers last season!" Yeah, and it was an aberration then, even though it didn't seem obvious until now. The Mexican would win more headers than Rooney in any case. Surely Ferguson didn't have the balls to take off Rooney.
But he did. And he did so audaciously.
Seventy-two minutes. Hernandez is shown entering the game, smiling and looking like Poncharello from CHIPS.
The tipped-off cameraman closed in on Rooney looking blankly at the fourth official's board, the self-realization that he'd been absolute shit thus far betrayed by his beady eyes; the knowledge that he's vastly overpaid by his recently adjusted contract clear on his puggy mug.
He watched his card get pulled. He jogged off stoically.
Hernandez Leads from the Top
United's reaction, though was full of emotion.
Immediately Hernandez started making the direct forward runs that have won several games already this season. United were plowing forward with waves of domineering attacks.
Their first goal was physically inevitable. They passed triangles down the right before an outstanding Darren Fletcher made the forward run and crossed at the byline for Berbatov to nimbly tap home.
United didn't stop. Hernandez was using his pace to draw defenders deep, and Ponch was rewarded just two minutes later. Giggs shipped him through and the Mexican continued to display his mature finishing by doing just so after just one measured touch.
It was hard to envisage United coming back to win without Ruud van Nistelrooy. But Paul Scholes, looking fit and sharp on his first match in months, drove sickly over the top for Berbatov. The Bulgar faked going right, instead finishing with his left foot to drive it past Kingston's near post.
United come from behind to secure a five-point lead atop the Premier League summit in one of the most riveting games in the league this season. Most importantly, in doing so, they played some of their best football of it during the final 20 minutes of the match.
Chicharito for President, Berba for Chairman
How many times has a joyful Chicharito turned United frowns upside down this season?
Javier Hernandez changes games. He does it simply. He's extremely athletic, has a monstrous leap, uncanny heading ability, makes runs in behind, uses both feet, has natural instincts and for good measure, tries hella hard without being all super emo about it.
His ebullience is expressed in his style; his class is expressed in his execution.
If Sir Alex Ferguson continues to have the balls to play him instead of Rooney, when the Scouser's form is off (oft), it'll benefit everyone—Hernandez, Rooney, Berbatov and club United alike.
In fact, it's not unreasonable to wonder if Rooney has re-signed just to be sold in the summer—not a dissimilar arrangement from the Ronaldo romance between United and Madrid.
It was only after Rooney mercifully departed against Blackpool that United started playing top-class football. Most strikingly, however, is the manner of United's last two goals. Hernandez's straight run over the top, with pace, and Berbatov faking right, going left decisively, and finishing with his left peg represent two things Rooney doesn't do.
More evidence of that nature will be damning for Rooney who could be worth far more to United in dollars than in action.
His reputation abroad still exceeds his form this season and throughout his United career—last year, now, being an obvious statistical outlier—and frankly United should sell him before the rest of Europe realizes it.
It would make financial sense, to offload a complacent and perpetually over-hyped Wazza while his value is still bloated, a move to unshackle Hernandez as United's talisman for the coming generation.
If that was the plan all along, we'd be the last to know, anyway.
But we may now be some of the first to realize that Hernandez, and not Rooney, is the future at forward.
Javier Hernandez is more valuable than Wayne Rooney (Bleacher Report)
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