By, Kyle Gibson
Wayne Rooney’s red card against West Ham back in September may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back in terms of his place with Manchester United’s starting 11. It is hard to think about the legendary Rooney, who is now just 30 goals away from Sir Bobby Charlton’s club scoring record with 219 career goals, sitting on the United bench. Still, Rooney never exactly climbed to the great status many claimed he would achieve.
With new, world class striker Radamel Falcao at Old Trafford, it may be hard for Rooney to crack a place in the starting 11. I will try to weigh the case for and the case against Rooney in the Red Devils XI.
THE CASE FOR ROONEY
If you take a look at the above illustration, there are only really three places that Rooney would fit. The top two slots, occupied by Robin Van Persie and Falcao, are Rooney’s typical positions on the pitch. However, I strongly doubt he has the talent on level with Van Persie and Falcao when they are on truly good form. The weak link in that equation is Van Persie, who needs players to provide for him to score goals. Rooney can play provider for himself. When Falcao is fit, only goalkeeper David De Gea is more of a lock for the starting 11.
The other spot Rooney could play is occupied by Juan Mata. This is actually a position that Rooney is pretty good in. He relishes dropping back in a formation to play passes out wide and taking long shots. Rooney is also better at tracking back defensively than Mata. Mata is also always rumored to be heading out of town, so there is that as well.
Again, these are the only spots I would consider Rooney. He played on the wing once for England, to comical effect.
THE CASE AGAINST ROONEY
As mentioned above, Van Persie is the more vulnerable of the starting strike force. However, manager Louis Van Gaal is a fellow Dutchman who coached Van Persie at the World Cup in 2014. The two have a connection that I think would give Van Persie the edge.
It is true that Rooney can also play Mata’s spot, but Mata does not have to track back as much defensively (in theory) because Blind and Herrera can provide some cover for Mata to do his thing offensively. Additionally, Mata is much more dangerous at free kicks and can play attacking passes deliciously, without wanting a lot of shots for himself.
We also have to look at the “L” word: leadership. Rooney’s red card put him out for the entire month of October. He is a known hot-head that just doesn’t seem to learn. It makes matters worse that Van Gaal trusted Rooney enough to name him captain, something he will have to strongly reconsider.
I may be wrong and Van Gaal could welcome Rooney back with open arms, but I urge United fans to be patient with whatever decision Van Gaal makes. After all, he has the league titles on his mantle and we don’t.