Rooney Should Not Be First Pick For Club Or Country. Stan Speaks…
I decided to watch in full the Everton v Man United game late on Saturday so that I could confirm in my own mind one thing which will enhance the Red Devils this season, and one, if not dealt with head on, could stop them achieving their aims and ambitions.
First, let’s look at a very simple lesson learned. Midfield is the engine room, a space on the pitch where incredible athletes stop, start, sprint box-to-box, and do the heavy lifting for any Premier League football team. 14 kilometres of pure work from most good midfielders bears testament to that.
So it was good to see Louis van Gaal eat a little humble pie and understand that in the English top flight, particularly the English top flight, industry is still at the top of the list when it comes to attributes needed to ‘earn the right to play’, win the battle, and go some way to winning a 90-minute war. So with the greatest of respect to two fine, well-decorated players like Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger, they should never ever play as a two again, unless it’s against sides devoid of confidence, nouse or physicality in midfield. Aston Villa then.
Ander Herrera playing either as a second holder or a little further forward reminds me of the energy and drive of an Alexis Sanchez. They are different players who do different things but get players around them responding to their work rate, busy-bee movement and attitude. It’s infectious! Carrick and Bastian can’t provide that and as proven at Arsenal, good teams will get at you, push you back, move you into awkward positions, and an inability to respond with mobility leaves you dead in the water.
Herrera must play, every week. When fit, he’s a lightning rod for others to go closing from the front, and although he’s a nuisance high up the pitch, I like the thought of Schneiderlin, a more natural sitter, and Herrera developing as a two. The grit with the firefly, both mobile.
If LvG lets these two develop a relationship in that crucial area of the pitch I honestly believe United will start to get the forward movement, confidence and rhythm to do the things they have traditionally have done well; namely dominate midfield, then play on the front foot in wide and central attacking positions.
Against better sides, Carrick and Schweinsteiger as a pair will always nowadays take a step back rather than forward.
It’s just counter intuitive to the way Manchester United function at their very best.
Rooney Below Par
Now the elephant in the room. I watched with extra interest the Wayne Rooney documentary on BBC 1 last week and I knew before the first words came from the prodigal son’s mouth what the narrative would be. Paul Stretford was my agent for some time and did my biggest moves, so I’d like to think I know what this man, who I saw as a father figure, thinks and feels.
He wanted the nation obviously to appreciate Rooney’s achievements and get to know the man a little. But primarily, at a time when in my opinion, Rooney is at his least productive, least capable and therefore should be under the most pressure, we all tuned in. Fans, ex-players, journalists and most importantly the current teammates and manager of Manchester United/England know who the boss is, who is still the most famous, most talked about English player since Beckham. That’s important.
Brand Rooney is bigger than the reality, and that is a footballer who should not be first pick as striker for his club or country in the here and now, and that’s the truth.
Yes he’s broken the England record, yes he’ll break the United record, but these are longevity records, not October 2015 ones! Anthony Martial has earned the right to play up top for United and arguably Kane, Sterling, and Sturridge (when fit) have all shown they are capable of scoring goals and attacking with youth, pace and creativity that belies Rooney’s reputation, again importantly put on show by Stretford in the documentary.
Is Wayne a grafter? Yes! Is Wayne deserving of being in the manager’s mind when it comes to starting for club and country? Yes! Should it be a given that his past exploits dictate he’s still first on the team sheet for club and country? No!
I think Wayne Rooney is a fine player with much still to offer club and country, but has anyone thought it may actually benefit the lad more by knowing he’s as droppable as anyone else? After all, it’s when his back is against the wall when he’s at his best, not playing him because of a great past.