“The wheel of change moves on, and those who were down go up and those who were up go down” – Jawaharlal Nehru
The quote couldn’t be more apt for anyone currently but Manchester United’s golden boy, Wayne Rooney. The man who couldn’t put a foot wrong last season has his world turned upside down, figuratively, in a matter of months. Accolades were pouring in from all quarters along with goals and assists; Rooney was finally the leading light, and with the world seemingly at his feet, ‘impossible’ was no more improbable for the boy wonder. Fast forward the summer of 2010, and murmurs have grown louder – “does Rooney deserves his place in the side?”
Ever since the day The News of the World broke their story, the United management and a large proportion of supporters have maintained that Rooney’s off field misdemeanors are his private affairs, and the club has distanced itself from anything remotely related to the whole saga. However, the club and the supporters have always been behind their talismanic striker, so that he sorts his personal life out and they could all see the Rooney of old once again. Just to illustrate this point, Wazza was saved from the inevitable abuse that would have come his way at his former club Everton, by being omitted from the team that traveled to Merseyside. Make whatever you may of the decision; Sir Alex has always shielded his prized assets. However, the clock might be starting to tick for Wayne as patience has started running thin among the supporters. Rooney hasn’t scored in open play for United since scoring against Bayern at the Allianz Arena more than five months ago.
The ‘class is permanent, form is temporary’ cliché has often been used in such cases. But in a result oriented business , class is more often than not mistaken for your last few performances, as public memory is conveniently short and fickle. Sir Alex has given his top dog all the support he needs, given that despite his very substandard performances, Rooney has continued to start in the majority of United games. Though the loyalty is admirable, it does beg the question- at what cost? Rooney’s presence on the field hasn’t benefited United a great deal on the contrary; his touches have been so ‘John Oshea-esque’ , which have lead to the opposition breaking down United’s moves – turnovers, in basketball terms. The Old Trafford crowd, to their credit, have voiced their unconditional support over and over again with various renditions of the famous “White Pele” chant, but Rooney must repay their faith now.
Can they score 30 in a season?
The gaffer now faces a serious dilemma. The club has five strikers in the senior squad, all competing for two and at times a single striking position in the team. Macheda, Chicharito and Owen have all laid their claims, and Sir Alex can no longer turn a blind eye to their performances. Michael Owen has now scored three goals in less than two hours of football and is knocking the hardest on the door, or so it seems. Macheda has been influential in his cameos and needs game time to take the next step in his development; reserve football may no longer satisfy his ambitions. Chicharito hasn’t been utilized in the right way, and has been often wasted out wide to accommodate other members; does he deserve a continuous run? The manager has plenty on his plate to ponder upon.
Berbatov’s rather surprising goal scoring exploits so far in the season have taken the heat off Rooney; Nani and the midfield have chipped in with a few. The situation on the goal scoring front has looked promising. But United should be on their guard, as the Bulgarian, although majestic, cannot be relied upon to be a goal poacher. Berbatov has never really been a ’25-goals-a-season’ kind of striker, and despite his brilliant start, the smart money wouldn’t be on him to break that tally.
Playing the devils advocate on the issue, Rooney has bought himself some time with his 34 goals exploits last season. He made himself almost indispensible to the United cause. Sir Alex might feel it’s a matter of time, or for that matter a single goal, before we see the best of Wayne once again. He has, in eyes of many supporters, earned himself the right to be played back into form. Rooney has always had his lean patches, followed by a streak where everything he touches turns to gold; he has always been that kind of a striker who blows hot and cold. But supporters do see this as more than just the odd loss in form, and that for the whole club could be worrying. The sea gulls have been wondering over his head for their share of sardines, and it’s up to Rooney to back the manager’s faith and the supporter’s unparalleled love and adulation.
United face their toughest test of the season yet, when they travel to Spain to face Valencia, who have stream rolled every opposition that have come their way. United haven’t scored in their last three visits to the country. However , looking at the bigger picture, all eyes would yet again be on Sir Alex’s team sheet. United, in their last two or three campaigns in Europe, have played with a single striker upfront, with a five-man-midfield to boot. Now the manager must decide who that target man should be. “Cometh the hour cometh the man.” The question is, is who will be that man? Will Rooney’s absence due to injury compound United’s misery? Or could that turn into a blessing in disguise?
Rooney will eventually get his bearings right some day; he is too good a player to not come back with all guns blazing. “Hope is a good thing – maybe the best thing, and no good thing ever dies”. United fans around the world would want their hopes turned into reality as early as the next game!