Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rooney: The king is dead. Long live the new king Chicharito...

Football is a very strange game: A week ago, Manchester United fans were coming to terms with the prospect of losing Wayne Rooney to Manchester City; according to the tabloid rumour-mill, the Rooney camp had been in negotiations with our bitterest rivals as far back as July. The prospect of losing Rooney following the loss of Ronaldo and Tevez was bad enough, but the fact City would be the most likely destination was to put it mildly, near vomit inducing.

Following his most successful season to date in the red shirt, Rooney had become the fans' number one hero; but all of that was undone in the space of just a few days following the news, that the player would not be extending his contract.

Rooney subsequently signed that new contract, but only after the club's owners were given a direct line to the player and in the conversations that followed assurances were given that Ferguson would be fully backed in the transfer market in the months ahead.

It was interesting to note that the media failed to pick up on a central point here: neither David Gill, CEO, or Ferguson himself were able to convince the player about the prospect of quality signings - is it not ironic that the Glazers' had to convince Rooney of their will to back the manager?

Ferguson and Gill have repeatedly told the fans' that there is money to spend on new players. However, Ferguson's word was clearly not enough for the player and so despite the fact his manager had done his best to turn the situation around and despite Rooney labelling his boss as a genius - there still appears to be a lack of trust.

It remains be to seen what happens in January and next summer when the transfer window opens, but for now two things look almost certain: the fans have a new hero in Javier Hernandez and secondly that Rooney has to rebuild his broken relationship with the supporters.

As for Hernandez, with the very real danger of appearing to burden the player with a comparison to a United legend, the signs look as though Ferguson and his scouts may well have unearthed the most natural goal-scorer since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Hernandez scored the only goal of the game against Valencia in the Champions League recently, he scored against West Brom at Old Trafford, he followed that up with a brace against Stoke City at the weekend; the young Mexican's striker headed goal against the Potters was amazing, Chicharito twisted and arched his neck as he directed the ball off his head into the rigging, it was a goal of the very highest quality - Chicharitos acrobatic leap was reminiscent of one those performing Sea Lions at feeding time - marvelous stuff.

In last night's Carling Cup tie against Wolves at Old Trafford the Mexican came off the bench to score the winner with another superbly crafted goal as United came out on top in a second-half five goal thriller.

The way things are looking, Rooney might well struggle to regain his starting place in the United first team due to the emerging talent that is Hernandez. However, Rooney and Hernandez are very different strikers: Rooney may well, in time, be preferred in a 4-5-1/4-3-3 formation, because Chicharito is best suited to playing with a strike partner, whereas Rooney can lead the line on his own.

Hernandez is an excellent striker in around the penalty box, so much so that he could well become the new king of Old Trafford following Rooney's fall from favour with the fans'; once again this demonstrates how strange football can be at times, because prior to recent events, no one could have predicted how quickly a star like Rooney could fall and to such depths. The King is dead. Long live the New King.

James Ryddel and other top United bloggers have their say on big Rooney debate

Friday, October 22, 2010

Rooney staying, but Fergie's problems are far from over...

Forty eight hours ago Ferguson stated that the Rooney deal saga would be put to bed the following morning: at that point in time, no one, apart from those directly involved could have known what the manager meant when he said: "put to bed".

Personally, I had a feeling there might be one last attempt to get the player and his agent around the negotiating table, because United were facing a real crisis that could have had far reaching consequences for the club and manager in the short-term.

Losing Rooney following his claims that the club could no longer match his ambitions was to put it bluntly, embarrassing, for United. The reasons given for wanting to leave were justified, because United have not gone out and signed the players who would ensure the team keeps on winning trophies. The manager and many United fans didn't like it, but what Rooney said in his statement was true.

The reaction to news that Rooney wanted out was predictable: the fans were really upset, the talk of joining City just ramped up the pressure on Ferguson and United.

In the wake of the quit story breaking, there's been various theories punted: Rooney had been tapped-up by City; Fergie and Rooney had brokered some sort of elaborate conspiracy with a view to convincing the Glazers' to back the manager in the transfer market; the latter scenario is a stretch too far for this blog - there's no way this has been a conspiracy, for one thing, there isn't enough intelligence in one of the camps...

The news that Rooney has agreed to sign a new five-year deal will receive a mixed reaction. For those fans who'd called Rooney the scum of the earth and a lot worse, there will no doubt be a period of reflection and healing because the love has clearly been lost, but hopefully not forever.

Rooney's crime was expressing his seemingly greater ambition than our own beloved manager, who has failed to make decisive moves for several world-class midfield players over the last couple seasons and contrary to his expressed views - these players have been good value for money: I refer Wesley Sneijder (15 million Euros), Mesut Ozil (£12m) and Raphael van der Vaart (£10m). Contrary, the views of some observers, this wasn't about wages and following news of this new deal, hopefully that will now be accepted.

Rooney and every Manchester United supporter has the right to express their views on the current squad; by going public, Rooney might well have done the fans', supporters' groups and his manager a huge favour because hopefully the club will take a more pro-active approach to solving the very obvious issues in the current squad. United need four top-class players and the search cannot start soon enough.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rooney to City, it's a nailed on certainty: Move will mark lowest point in Fergie's time at United....

Manchester United supporters are still coming to terms with the confirmation that Wayne Rooney wants to quit the club. Ferguson took the very unusual step of making the announcement himself at yesterday's press conference ahead of this evenings Champions League clash with Bursaspor.

The United manager claims that Rooney's agent intimated that the player wasn't going to renew his contract as far back as August. However, those claims have been denied by the Rooney camp; the other side say, they only broke the news last Wednesday following the reported bust-up over the player's 'injuries' and his subsequent loss of form and his starting place in the first-team.

Only those directly involved know the real truth, but clearly there are conflicting reports over the timing of what actually happened and when.

What we don't yet know is why Rooney is leaving: we will we ever know the real truth? Perhaps. For now, we have to analyse what has happened and how this will affect United going forward without Rooney.

First things first: Why did Ferguson make this announcement himself?

There will, without doubt, be many answers trotted out to this question, but here's our take:

Rooney went public last week when telling the nation that Ferguson had been lying over those ankle injury claims. In response, Ferguson said "it was water off a duck's back". The fact that Rooney had gone against his manager by effectively calling him liar was a very worrying sign, predictably the transfer rumour-mill swung into action.

United fans will recall that in a similar situation, Ronaldo had told Ferguson of his wish to leave the club 12 months before the move actually happened. Ferguson struck a deal with Ronaldo, but it was all kept under wraps for 12 months. In this instance, rather than try to keep the news from the fans, and perhaps unwisely by making the announcement mid-season, the club runs the risk of lowering any bids because the whole world knows Rooney's time at United is over...

Contrary to his "water off a ducks back" response, Ferguson was clearly livid with Rooney and understandably so. Our view is that the United manager took the very unusual step of breaking the news himself in an attempt to regain the moral high-ground with the fans and media. Ferguson may well have regained the high-ground with the fans but at what price?

So what is Rooney's likely response?
The rumour-mill suggests that the player has lost confidence in his manager, because he has failed to bring in adequate replacements for Ronaldo and Tevez.

While Ferguson may well have temporarily regained the morale high-ground, this response is something of an open goal for Rooney - because it is true - and there's nothing Fergie or anyone else at United can do that will convince supporters otherwise.

Rooney was left to carry the burden of scoring the goals last season, as soon as the player sustained that injury against Bayern Munich, United's season was effectively over.

No matter what Fergie says, United are in decline and we the fans cannot escape that conclusion and if there was any doubt, Rooney's departure is the final confirmation.

So where is Rooney heading?
Earlier this week one report claimed that the Glazers' had put Ferguson in total charge of the Rooney saga; It was also claimed that the manager would dictate Rooney's destination and the timing of any move.

United fans may well be hoping, and make no mistake, we are, that Rooney will not be sold to Manchester City and for very obvious reasons. Sadly, United are in no position to dictate given the financial mess the club are in because of the Glazer family takeover.

There's no way Chelsea, Real Madrid or Barcelona are daft enough to offer top money for Rooney - not in this situation when everyone knows how bad relationships are between player and manager.

The only likely destination is Eastlands. Manchester City would pay £50m just to rub United's nose in it. No matter that Rooney could be just another reserve, but that scenario is unlikely, well it is, assuming the player can recapture the form that saw him score so many vital goals last season.

So what does the future hold for United and Ferguson?
With United playing so indifferently this season and with Rooney heading for the exit door as early as January, United chances of winning the Premier League or the Champions League look remote.

Inevitably, Rooney's departure will ignite talk of Ferguson retiring sooner rather than later. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but you wonder if Ferguson will live to regret not retiring in 2008 after winning the Champions League final, because it looks like the United manager will not be leaving on a high-note, not unless the club goes out and matches the ambitions of the fans in the transfer market, but there's more chance of the Pope defecting to the church of England while the Glazers' are in charge.

Rooney and the critics can claim, with some justification, that there's a massive rebuilding job to do at Old Trafford and given is age, it's fair to ask if Ferguson is the man to do it. Ferguson will not be sacked, you guarantee that much, not least because of his sickening support for the debt laden Glazer regime.

We could see Fergie leaving United at the end of the current season, but his pride is likely to be further damaged if Rooney defects to City and subsequently pours scorn on his former manager for failing to adequately strengthen the squad. Yet, Fergie's pride could be the very thing that drives him to carry on, but if he does, he runs the risk of being compared to a punch-drunk boxer who doesn't know when to quit.

In summary:
Rooney has disappointed the supporters, who may have been shocked, but we shouldn't be surprised at this turn of events. Rooney left Everton his boyhood club for better things, he may well argue that is what he's doing this time around: we the fans' might not agree, but results on the pitch are ultimately what count and only time will tell what the future holds for United and Rooney.

Was Fergie right to go public and make the announcement himself? In some ways yes, but in other ways no. He was right because it gave the manager a chance to get across his very obvious disappointment and to convey his side of the story, but in so doing, he lowered himself and importantly he might well have indirectly lowered the player's eventual transfer fee.

They say every cloud has a silver-lining and in this case, the silver-lining is that Rooney's defection to City could foreshorten the Glazers' stay at United, because Ferguson won't be around much longer and once he goes the owners will follow not longer after. There's a very real possibility that United's days at the top of the domestic game are well and truly over. United are a house of cards that are waiting to collapse. And the clock is ticking for the Glazers'.

In years to come, when we look back at Ferguson's time at the club, Rooney's defection will undoubtedly be one of, if not the lowest point in his United career.

It remains to be see how the fans' will react to the news that Rooney wants out. It is to be hoped United fans do not boo one of our own players while he's on the pitch - not while he's still at the club - it would be embarrassing if that happened.

United have lost/sold better players than Rooney in the recent past: Beckham and Cantona to name just two; but this time it's different, because the squad is so short of genuine star quality.

The nearest comparison is George Best, who back in the early 70s had been carrying an ageing squad for a number of years; when Best left United were eventually relegated. There's no way Rooney should ever be compared to a genuine United legend and let me make it clear I'm not even half suggesting that for a moment.

Rooney carried United for just one season and now he wants out. We don't yet know why, it doesn't actually matter why, the only thing that matters is that he no longer wants to play for United. Fine. Let him go. United will move on, in time the club will bounce back because we always do.

Finally, only those among us who still believe in Father Christmas will believe that Fernando Torres is going to be Rooney's replacement.

Buckle your seatbelts, it's going to be a very bumpy ride for the next few seasons, especially for those who only started following the club from the early nineties onwards...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fergie facing sack over Rooney? There's more chance of Postman Pat becoming United's next manager....

The future of Wayne Rooney continues to be the hottest talking point in football, with reports claiming the club will not meet the player's excessive wage demands.

But money appears to be only one of a number of issues. Wayne Rooney is said to be one of the few United player's who will stand up to Ferguson. And amidst reports of a recent bust-up over revelations about Wayne's private life, the relationship between player and manager has been further strained following Rooney's recent counter-injury claims in relation to Ferguson going on record on numerous occasions stating that United's talisman has been playing with injuries this season.

United supporters will be desperately hoping Rooney backs down and makes the peace with his manager, but that scenario is beginning to look unlikely. United held a UNICEF press conference yesterday, but the topic of Wayne Rooney was off limits, however, David Gill, CEO, stated that an announcement would be made at the appropriate time. According to eye witnesses, Ferguson was in fine fettle and if he is concerned about the possible departure of his star striker he didn't show it.

If the tabloid gossip columns are to be believed, Rooney is said to have a number of grievances; one of which is the current state of the United squad following the sale of Ronaldo and Tevez. It is claimed that Rooney is unhappy because the club hasn't strengthened the squad adequately.

From the fans' perspective it's difficult to know who is telling the truth in these situations, because both parties will be leaking their side of the story to the press. One thing looks certain, there's too many stories for this to be yet another tabloid kite flying exercise; so we the fans' have to prepare ourselves for Rooney's possible departure - and quite possibly to Manchester City too.

As expected the media are having a field day, and as per usual there's an awful lot of guff and spin, sans any concrete facts. One report claims that the Glazers' have told Ferguson to do what he thinks is best, but according to David McDonnell of the Daily Mirror, the manager's head is on the chopping block should Rooney leave the club: I haven't heard anything as ridiculous since David Steel told the Liberal party conference to go back to their constituencies and prepare for government in 1981.

I cannot think of any scenario in which the Glazers' would sack Ferguson: he has been a solid supporter of the family since the much maligned takeover back in 2005 - much to the annoyance of this blog and the majority of right thinking United supporters - the loss of Rooney is big news, but it most definitely will not spell the end for Ferguson. There's more chance of Postman Pat becoming United's next manager and I'm referring to the one from Greendale and not Fabio Capello - though there is an uncanny likeness...

Monday, October 18, 2010

United heading for meltdown as Rooney looks set for exit door...

IF we are to believe the widespread media reports about the future of troubled Wayne Rooney, then it looks like he could be about to quit the club. Alarmingly for United's money men, Rooney is into the last 20 months of his contract and following claims of a complete relationship breakdown between player and manager, it is now suggested the club's talisman could be leaving as soon as January. Moves to Barcelona, Real Madrid and worst of all money-bags Manchester City have been mooted.

With so little time left to run on his contract, from a negotiating point of view, United could be forced to accept a cut-price offer for the player, because Real Madrid and Barcelona are unlikely to break the bank when they know full well that they could sign the player for free in a little over 12 months time.

Clearly, Rooney is no Cristiano Ronaldo and so there's no hope in hell of coming anywhere near the £80m United received from Real Madrid for the Portuguese winger; more likely, United will receive between £20m and £30m at best.

For supporters, this news will be hard to stomach, because in the space of just two years it looks like the club will have lost Ronaldo, Tevez and Rooney.

Ronaldo and Tevez have moved on and despite many United supporters claiming Tevez wasn't worth his agent's asking price of £30m, the fact is, the City striker has now out-scored Rooney (Total goals, Rooney: 37 Tevez: 42) over the last two seasons.
Ronaldo is working his magic for Real Madrid and it looks like Rooney will heading for the same exit door.

If as expected Rooney leaves it will be the latest significant marker in United's decline following the Glazer takeover of the club in 2005. You cannot allow players of the calibre of Ronaldo, Tevez and now Rooney to leave without replacing them with world-class players and United have failed to do that.

Despite claiming the club has money to spend, talk is cheap, and United haven't spent the £80m that they received from the sale of Ronaldo. Ferguson failed to make any significant moves for either Sneijder or Mesut Ozil and so the manager is still relying on 35-year-old veterans Giggs and Scholes.

Following an indifferent start to the new season, there has to be a very real prospect that Manchester City could finish above United in the Premier League, if that happens then what is the point of our manager and CEO claiming there's money in the bank? However, the truth is of the £165m in the club coffers, the Glazers can reportedly take out £130m and let's not forget that United are being crippled by staggering annual interest payments that dwarf those of Liverpool who last week had their debts wiped out following yet another takeover.

United are without any shadow of doubt heading for meltdown and the clock is ticking for the Glazers, because by the time Ferguson retires United could be a mid-table Premier League club - at least we will be unless the team is strengthened with the addition of four world-class players. Ferguson needs two midfield players, a striker and a goalkeeper, but will it happen? Don't hold your breath.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

West Brom punish United schoolboy errors ...

A couple of weeks ago this blog posted that United need to score three goals to have any hope of winning these days; it seems not much has changed in the intervening period because United conspired to throw away two more vital points against the Baggies at Old Trafford yesterday, this after being two-nil up at half-time thanks to a debut goal for Hernandez and another from Nani.

Successive United teams down the years have played with a degree of unpredictability and while there's no doubting the success along the way, we have become used to the "not know what is coming next" brand of football - in part, it adds to the undoubted excitement of watching the team. However, one of the hallmarks of Fergie's great sides has been the collective ability to defend and it's here where the current United team has been failing this season.

While it's easy to point the finger at mistakes at the back, it doesn't tell the whole story. Yesterday against West Brom, United were too open at times. It's true to say that it was a very entertaining game, especially in the first-half until Giggs went off five minutes before the break.

Giggs was in majestic form on the left flank yesterday. The Welshman rolled back the years with another vintage performance - such a pity that he had to be replaced because from that point onwards United lost their way.

Fergie eventually sent on Darron Gibson and Anderson was pushed out onto the left, but to no great effect. While he huffed and puffed throughout the opening thirty minutes, the Brazilian's passing let him down on too many occasions. It is surely only a mattter of time before Ferguson's patience runs out with Anderson, because he's been given ample opportunity to prove what he's capable of and frankly, he has failed. The same can be said of the "one trick pony" that is Gibson. Part of the problem at Old Trafford right now, is the squad is littered with 'nearly men' midfield players. There's no way Fletcher, Carrick, Anderson or Gibson would get into Chelsea's midfield on a regular basis and it's why United have been struggling especially in the latter stages of the Champions League.

Against West Brom on too many occasions, United's midfield were guilty of wasting possession especially in the second period.

United were two-nil up at the break and it was great to see Hernandez score his first Premier League goal for the club in the opening exchanges. The Mexican striker looked very sharp in the opening 30 minutes and quite how the score remained one-nil for so long is something of a mystery; in truth the Baggies lived on the edge for much of the opening period, but they had their own chances and the score-line could quite easily have been 5-2 at the break.

Nani had scored United's second with a well taken goal and he did okay for the most part, that is he did, apart from one outrageous second-half dive which he luckily got away with.

West Brom came out for the second period with every intention of fighting their way back into the game and pretty much from the first kick they were creating problems for Vidic & co.

ON 50 minutes, Mr Jones handed the Baggies a lifeline when he generously gave the visitors a free-kick, after penalising Anderson for shirt-pulling just outside the United penalty area. It turned out to be a massive turning point in the game.

There's no way the referee should have awarded that free-kick, because the player who'd been pulled back had beaten off the challenge of Anderson and got cross into the United penalty area - it was a ridiculous decision: The advantage rule had been played and then Mr Jones decided to give the visitors another bite of the cherry by wrongly giving the Baggies that free-kick.

Evra scored with an own goal from Brunt's free-kick: If Ferguson isn't livid with his defence AND his goalkeeper then something IS very wrong, because Van der Sar was beaten at his near post. United had SIX players in between the near-post and where the free-kick was taken - that is parallel with the United goal-line. That was United's first-schoolboy error.

We only had to wait five minutes for the second and much, much, worse schoolboy error: Unchallenged, Van der Sar somehow contrived to virtually throw the ball into his own net from a harmless cross from Tchoyi. It was the sort of mistake you wouldn't expect from a nine-year-old - it really was that bad.

United hit the woodwork, but apart from that, there was nothing of note to get excited about, the fluency that was in evidence for much of the very entertaining opening forty minutes simply wasn't there and United looked ordinary and could quite easily have lost this game. Scholes and Rooney came on but to no great effect. United can forget about winning any of the big prizes this season. We simply are not good enough.

Man of the match: Giggs.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fergie: "It's me who picks the team, not Rooney or Dr Steadman"...

Fergie has given his withering response to Rooney's England post-match comments: "It's water off a duck's back", said the United manager.

In speaking out in such a provocative way, it's fairly clear that Rooney was doing his level best to put pressure on the United manager to select him after being axed for the recent games with Valencia and Sunderland.

Following England's bore-draw with Montenegro on Tuesday, Rooney gave a live TV interview in which he claimed that he'd not been suffering with an ankle injury this season. Rooney's outburst was ill-advised and it put him on a collision course with his manager, who has been doing his best to protect his star striker following the problems in his private life. It was a kick in the teeth for Ferguson and an act of disloyalty and the latter will have angered the United manager.

Ferguson is now in a very tricky situation, because he faces a dilemma this weekend: IF Rooney starts from the off against West Brom - it will look like the player has got his own way. If Rooney is left on the bench and if United are not winning comfortably the Old Trafford crowd will be chanting for Rooney to come on. Here again, it will look like Rooney has won. For these reasons and you may call this stubbornness if it actually happens, Rooney could be left out of the United squad entirely, but personally I doubt that will happen. More likely, Fergie will start with Rooney, but make no mistake and despite the manager claiming the outburst is "water off a duck's back" he will be deeply disappointed in the player.

Ferguson has every right to be livid with Rooney, because he demands and expects respect and above all else loyalty from his players.

Fergie should be picking the players who are in form and nothing else should matter. If you do not play well then the manager has every right to drop the player in question and based on some of his performances this season, Rooney could have few complaints if he is benched from time to time.

In other news Fergie has reacted angrily to the quotes which have been attributed to renowned US surgeon doctor Richard Steadman who earlier this week trumpeted the return of Owen Hargreaves by claiming he'd play some part in Saturday's game with West Brom.

In Friday's pre-match press conference Ferguson made it clear that Hargreaves is still injured, but this time it's his calf and not his knees that are causing the problems. Fergie told the media that he picks the team and that he's been doing the job for quite some time now. The United manager has been rattled by the surgeon's comments which have come at a sensitive time with Rooney appearing to contradict his manager in relation to his own injury problems.

In some ways it could be argued that Fergie has created a rod for his own back over these counter-injury claims, because over the years he's told so many white lies about similar 'injuries', but it has always been done with the very best intentions in mind - usually to protect the feelings of the player concerned.

It is to be hoped this sorry saga with Rooney is put to bed quickly and everyone regains their focus on the task at hand starting against West Brom tomorrow with three much needed points.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Rooney had enough of Fergie's games?

A couple of weeks ago this blog stated that it was our belief that Wayne Rooney was not seriously injured, this followed the news that the player would be out of action for up to three weeks due to what Ferguson described as an "ankle injury".

Today the player himself has confirmed what we told you when stating very publicly that "No, I've had no ankle problem all season," said Rooney when asked about his problems on the fitness front. Rooney was then asked as to why Ferguson had said he had an injury, Rooney replied: "I don't know." The player was talking to the press following England's bore draw with Montenegro on Tuesday and there's no doubting Rooney and Ferguson are now on a collision course following this outburst.

While Rooney hasn't been seriously injured, there's no denying he hasn't been playing anywhere near his best, he hasn't scored from open play since March.

Quite why Rooney spoke to out to the media is open to question: was this his attempt to rail-road his way back into the United starting eleven after being "rested " recently? If that scenario is true, then Rooney is playing a very dangerous game because few players cross Ferguson and get away with it.

In speaking out in open defiance against his manager - who by default is being made to look like a liar - Rooney could be putting his United future in jeopardy, at least that is the danger.

Rooney needs to understand that Ferguson has been doing his level best to protect his star striker following his loss of form. Ferguson is the fairest manager of the lot with his players - and this episode is by no means the first time that the manager has told white lies to protect the player in question. Rather than tell the media that Rooney been dropped, surely it is better to tell the odd porky?

Anyone who has followed United for any length of time will hopefully be familiar with Fergie's ways, which we have become accustomed to. Nonetheless, the fans will be hoping this issue is put to bed quickly, but do not expect Rooney to start against West Brom.

No player is bigger than the club and in speaking out, Rooney, is clearly trying to pick the team and Ferguson will surely not have that.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Rooney headache for Fergie: The spark is still missing, but Rio is looking good...

Going into last night's Euro 2012 qualifier with Montenegro, Fabio Capello had insisted that Wayne Rooney was a sharp as ever; sadly, the Italian was only partly correct, because Rooney didn't do enough to suggest his problems are behind him following the turmoil surrounding his private life.

The match ended 0-0 - it wasn't exactly a game to remember, but it had its moments. In the final analysis, England were lucky not to lose as the visitors came closest to scoring when Joe Hart was well beaten from fully thirty-five yards by Jovanovic whose stunning half volley rebounded off the crossbar. At the other end, Wayne Rooney had a couple of decent chances but he was denied by goalkeeper Mladen Bozovic.

When Rooney was on the ball he actually looked okay, but when he wasn't on the ball the spark that makes him the player that he's become simply was not there for much of the contest.

When Rooney is playing well, he wants the ball all of the time and he works tirelessly for the team; we saw some evidence of that when he was booked for a calculated challenge. However, there was signs of encouragement against Montenegro, the passion and work-rate might not have been quite there, but his touch was good for the most part.

Part of the problem was that England's midfield didn't provide enough good service to Rooney and Crouch. Adam Johnson looked the most likely provider in the opening period, but the two England strikers were by and large well marshalled by an uncompromising Montenegro back-line.

There was better news to report regarding Rio Ferdinand; having been restored to captain, the England defender put on a near faultless performance and that's great news for both Fabio Capello and Ferguson.

United take on West Brom at the weekend and following a run of indifferent form, the manager and the club's supporters will expect nothing less than three points - whether or not Rooney starts will be one of the major talking points leading up to Saturday's Premier League fixture.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

United slump in serious danger of turning into a slide if unchecked...

United were in action at the Stadium of Light yesterday, it finished up 0-0; it's the fourth away draw on the spin in the Premier League this season and it simply isn't good enough for any team with serious title winning ambitions.

The harsh truth is, for the second weekend in a row United were extremely fortunate to come away with a point. Last weekend Bolton's Elmander should have ensured victory for his club, but thankfully, he shot tamely at Edwin van der Sar, that was when the score was 2-1 to the Trotters. In the end United somehow salvaged a point at the Reebok. Yesterday against Sunderland, after pulling off an unlikely away win against win Valencia on Tuesday in the Champions League, United's performance was in many ways much worse than the previous weekend.

By the time the referee blew the whistle for half-time, Sunderland should have been at least two-nil up: That fact that Steve Bruce's side went into the dressing room on level terms was down to a combination of bad luck and some dogged defending by United's defence who actually performed well on the day.

Up front and especially in midfield it was an altogether different story. Putting it bluntly, United's midfield was pretty much none existent when it came to creativity and that's despite the fact that Paul Scholes was restored to the starting eleven.

United barely created anything of note in terms of goal scoring opportunities. It was quite simply a dreadful performance and so no wonder Ferguson said after the game that he was satisfied with a point. At this rate Ferguson must surely be running out of get out of jail cards.

The worry is, against Sunderland Ferguson had started with his first choice centre midfield pairing. But, up front the manager elected to leave out the player of the season so far, Berbatov. It was a strange decision, but one that United fans have become used to down the years. The exclusion of Rooney was of course expected. Rooney isn't playing well and despite the player declaring himself fit to play this weekend, he is no great loss at present.

In contrast, Nani played extremely well against Bolton and Valencia in midweek. However, yesterday there was no balance on the left, at times in the first-half Michael Owen drifted out on the left flank, but to no great effect. Anderson, was frankly a complete and utter waste of space and did nothing worthy of praise in the whole 90 minutes.

The partnership of Owen and Macheda up front simply did not work and so it came as no surprise that Berbatov replaced the former Newcastle striker at half-time. United fans and indeed the player himself might have reasonably expected Hernandez to start following his heroics in midweek against Valencia, but Ferguson is a very fair manager when it comes to giving everyone a chance. The Mexican's name is at the bottom of the established pecking order and that's why Ferguson chose to start with Owen and Macheda yesterday. While, the supporters often find themselves scratching their collective heads when Fergie elects to leave out what most would see as the obvious candidates to play up front, you have to look at the overall picture when it comes to the morale of the players concerned.

Ferguson commands respect, not least because of his actions when it comes to giving everyone a fair chance. Michael Owen had scored two goals against Scunthorpe in the Carling Cup and one against Bolton last weekend. Macheda played a vital part in the the winner against Valencia in midweek. Nonetheless, the decision to leave out Berbatov is without doubt a good talking point.

For those looking for positives, Rio Ferdinand came through another ninety minutes unscathed and continues to look in good shape. United have a run of domestic and European games from which we will hopefully take maximum points; though Spurs and Stoke will fancy their chances given United's stuttering form. United have been playing poorly away from home, but so far we have been getting away with it, however, the Reds must improve and quickly.

Saturday, 16 October 2010
Barclays Premier League
Man Utd v West Brom, 15:00

Wednesday, 20 October 2010
Uefa Champions League
Man Utd v Bursaspor, GpC, 19:45

Sunday, 24 October 2010
Barclays Premier League
Stoke v Man Utd, 13:30

Tuesday, 26 October 2010
Carling Cup
Man Utd v Wolverhampton, R4, 20:00

Saturday, 30 October 2010
Barclays Premier League
Man Utd v Tottenham, 17:30

Tuesday, 2 November 2010
Uefa Champions League
Bursaspor v Man Utd, GpC, 19:45

Saturday, 6 November 2010
Barclays Premier League
Man Utd v Wolverhampton, 15:00