This season at a quick glance and everything looks fairly rosy in the garden of the Theatre of Dreams.
Top of the league, still in the Champion’s League and the FA Cup. Yet there have been a two small niggles which have grown to problems that for some have reached crisis levels.
The first concern is the form of a certain Scouse striker, who some would argue, timed his contract dispute perfectly as it’s doubtful he’d be offered the money he was then if he was negotiating a deal now. Wayne Rooney has at times looked almost as good as he did last season, but these times, if we’re completely honest have been far less frequent.
Seven goals all season tells a story in itself and there’s no point in pretending that he’s enjoying a great spell despite his recent better form. Rooney’s struggled to live up to the massive expectations that were placed on his shoulders, especially when he made the club break the bank to keep him. At the time of his contractual reticence I claimed that the club had to go all out to keep him as I felt he was one of the world’s very best players.
Several months on and only several more goals, I still stand by that summation, Rooney’s a once in lifetime type of player that’s excelled so quickly at such a young age it’s easy to forget he’s nowhere near his peak. I’ll always feel that no matter how long since his last goal or what sort of game he’s having, there’s always a chance that Rooney can do something special and produce a match winning moment. His star may have dimmed with many United fans after the contract saga but he’s still a top, top player who any side would welcome with open arms.
The problem is Chicharito and Dimitar Berbatov have not stopped scoring all season, so dropping either or both of them for a player who’s not really firing on all cylinders is a tad risky to say the least. Just because Rooney’s one of the world’s top players doesn’t mean that his strike partners aren’t, yet he’s the only one that seems to be deemed undroppable.
Rooney’s been moved over to the left wing on occasion to try and influence the game there, while Berbatov and Chicharito are partnered upfront but as was the case in Rome, it’s not a position where he seems to shine.
There are those who believe that Rooney is simply too good to be dropped, yet there are a seemingly equal amount who claim that the striker is in fact fallible and therefore droppable. It’s simply a case of playing your in-form players.
What to do with Wazza is a conundrum that seemingly will not go away.
The second problem or area that has had many fans scratching their heads at, or in some cases clenching their fists in fury, is the central midfield department. The centre of the pitch at Old Trafford has become something of a merry go round this season and it isn’t just due to rotating players for fitness purposes.
Both Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick have been dropped for certain big games due to form, while Paul Scholes is at an age where playing every game is justifiably beyond him. Then there’s Anderson who when he’s not on the treatment table is a very talented player, it’s just let’s be honest, three years after his arrival at Old Trafford there’s still no certainty as to whether he’ll actually make the grade.
All of United’s five main central midfielders have question marks surrounding them and the area is often identified as something of a weak spot. If you look at any United position I’d argue we have one the very best players on the planet occupying it. All along the defence, you’re looking at players that would walk into practically any team in Europe.
Even though Rio Ferdinand’s fitness still leaves a lot to be desired- that’s obviously a massive understatement, a bit like saying it’s been a while since City won a trophy- but with Nemanja Vidic, plus the excellent Chris Smalling, there’s enough quality there.
When it comes to wingers, the injury to Nani is disappointing as he’s been our player of the season- at least for me- but it’s not devastating as with Antonio Valencia set to return, plus hopefully J-Sung Park in the next week or so, there’s no reason to feel too downbeat. Ryan Giggs can still be relied upon to do a job as well even if like Scholes he needs to be used somewhat sparingly.
The striking positions are very strong indeed, with Chicharito and Berbatov having over 30 goals between them.
It’s just the central midfield area where there’s obviously room for improvement, with no real world class players being able to consistently perform there.
Continued on page two.