Alex Ferguson, according to a story on the Guardian today, admitted that Rooney’s real position is through the middle either upfront or just behind.
On first glance it may appear like an admission of past mistakes but it could also mean that he’s fairly confident about snaring Berbatov from Spurs.
That Rooney’s not a wide man comes as no surprise. We all have seen how we can’t quite see the best of him when he’s away from the centre of the action. He will give his all when deployed anywhere. But his best position is and will always be in the hole behind the target man. Thankfully, Fergie seems to understand this:
“I think Wayne’s best position is through the middle, either the front role or tucking in just behind,” Ferguson said. “He is aggressive, has good pace and the courage to go in the box. There’s no reason why he can’t get a good supply of goals. But he may have benefited by having someone with more experience with him. That always happens with young strikers. We have to define Wayne’s role better.
Ferguson stressing on the need for defining a role for Rooney reveals what he may have been thinking about him all along. He has done this previously, when he declared Alan Smith to be the next Roy Keane, deploying him in midfield. It was ill-advised and although Smudger was forced out of his central midfield position due to a horrific injury, Fergie realised he couldn’t let his experiment last any longer and bought Michael Carrick.
We did buy a lot of players last summer and with Saha staying injured, he had little choice but to declare Rooney as the next target man. It was credit to our fluid system (and Ronaldo’s ability to give us that aerial strength when the situation demanded) that we didn’t really have to deal with the lack of a target man. But there were plenty of frustrating moments where crosses were whipped and the ball was crying to be put into the net — either headed or toe-poked. And there were other occasions when we would break forward but both our strikers would be in our own half. Tevez and Rooney have dovetailed perfectly for us, but sometimes they seem to have too much hunger to want the ball that they forget their core competencies. It’s not a knock on their respective abilities, but rather, their hunger to contribute for the team’s cause every which way sometimes works against them. Which is why the likes of Berbatov (or even an injury free Saha) prove to be much better options to have.
Back to Rooney though, it is about time he was asked to play behind someone who knows where the back of the net is and is not in direct competition with Wayne. It will take the pressure off Rooney. Even last season, whilst Ronaldo was banging them in, Rooney somehow felt the need to try something cute or over do his finishing. He continues to have seasons better than previous ones, as Scott suggested in his post yesterday, but we are yet to see that marquee season from him where he really breaks away from his shackles (or whatever that is holding him back) and makes the world sit up and take notice.
Till that day, we would sound like scousers proclaiming this to be Wayne Rooney’s season. (That said, I now shudder having compared ourselves with our friends from Merseyside.)
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Those wondering where my match report for the Orlando Pirates went, well, there wasn’t any because I couldn’t watch the game — thanks to work. If you want the official report, it’s here which, if you read without knowledge of the scoreline, you might be forgiven for thinking that we handed them a thumping. I think I’d rather read from one of the blogs, like this one — complete with player ratings.
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Finally, don’t forget to join our fantasy football league, with prizes (for the winners, of course).
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