Rooney is replaced by Chicarito in United's comeback win over Blackpool last week
Two goals in two games from Javier "Chicarito" Hernandez takes his tally for the season to 11 following his strike against Southampton in the FA Cup fourth round, which saw Manchester United edge out Southampton 2-1 in a hard-fought encounter at Saint Mary's. If the goalscoring statistics of all the United strikers are anything to go by, Sir Alex Ferguson should have a major selection headache as United look forward to their midweek league clash against Aston Villa at Old Trafford on Tuesday night.
Berbatov and Rooney or Berbatov and Hernandez?
It would be a fairly straightforward decision to make if the player in line for the chop wasn't a £30 million striker who now earns the equivalent of Blackpool's annual wage bill in a year and scored 34 goals last season, let alone the fact his name is Wayne Rooney.
His usual strike partner is unquestionably in his best goalscoring form since setting foot in the Premier League with Berbatov now on 19 goals for the season so it therefore makes no sense to drop him. Whilst Hernandez has got just as many goals this year as Fernando Torres, who was subject to a £40 million bid from Chelsea, and this despite not even being a first-team regular which should make bold reading for the United manager.
Rooney's goalscoring form this season, whatever the setbacks, do not make for pleasurable reading having scored only three goals with two of those coming from the penalty spot. In his favour, his performances in recent weeks were beginning to show signs of a return to his mercurial best, particularly against Birmingham City despite not scoring, and it is argued that his bad performance against Blackpool was an anomaly—a result of being strung out on the left wing by a defensive-minded Sir Alex.
The statistics however now mean that Ferguson will have no choice but to re-evaluate his first choice of front two pairing, but such a scenario presents a big dilemma that will affect the most important part of United's season.
The most logical explanation for Rooney's continued presence in the starting lineup is to try and give him the opportunity to get back into the free-scoring form which saw a tally for the season equal to that of Lionel Messi's total in La Liga. Rooney won't get back into that kind of form sitting on the bench and with the Champions League set to resume imminently as we approach the back end of the season with United still in contention for a potential treble, it's safe to presume Sir Alex would prefer his top players playing and playing at their best for during such a tricky period.
Meanwhile there is Hernandez who has made a goalscoring impact with nearly every opportunity he has been given and should rightly be rewarded for his efforts with a starting place and an extended chance to cement his place in that team. One way or another he's got to now play if it were a decision to be made on statistics alone. The bottom line would appear to be where to draw the line on the basis of selecting a player because of his performances on the pitch and not the name on the back of his shirt and the reputation that comes with it, albeit that the reputation of Wayne Rooney is a warranted one in every sense of the term.
In this instance however it seems simply playing the two in-form strikers and placing Rooney on the bench will mean he will not be anywhere near his best when the big games start to approach fast during the title and cup run-ins. And when Rooney is on that kind of form, as recent history proves, he borders between mildly ineffective and useless.