Rooney, Van Persie and the Question on Fergie's Mind

I bloody hate rumours – sometimes.

When Robin van Persie was transfered from North London to Manchester, speculation arose over how he would get along with incumbent superstar striker, Wayne Rooney.  Rooney, after all, is known for his, ehm, “fiery” temper.  Would they gel?  Would they compete for time on the pitch?  Would ego get in the way?  And most importantly, would Robin Van Persie help or hinder the club’s drive to bring the title back where it belongs (according to them, not me).

Judging by the fact that we still have a few weeks to go yet the trophy has already been claimed, I think you know the answer to some if not all of the above questions that circulated since the transfer last summer.  Yes, yes, and a big yes.  But a new crop of questions has been brewing, some of which are legitimate while others aim at finding some weak spot in the Devils’ armour.

We all know rumours should be treated as such, and giving credence to them can be our downfall as footy fans.  We sometimes bite when we shouldn’t, and other times refuse to believe when we should.  It’s a balancing act, and we are all just circus performers.  One such rumour that really does have a lot of steam is one that has Wayne Rooney going to play at PSG next season.  In fact, the Parisian club has already hinted that a deal has already been made.  Bollocks, I say.  Until I hear it from the mouth of the Fergie himself, I refuse to believe it true.

It does bag an interesting question that we may as well start debating now, seeing as how it will be discussed until we all feel ill in the face – if Manchester United could keep but one of these world class strikers, who should it be?

Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie have very, very different games.  As a rabid gooner, I spent many-a-season watching the Dutchman on the pitch.  What he brings to the game is a guy who can create in the box, and as  you know, can finish better than almost anyone in the game today.  His left footer  against Villa last Monday was one of the best strikes you will see this year, but if you’ve seen him play for any length of time you won’t have been surprised.  Persie is a striker in the truest sense.  He doesn’t aim to create for others necessarily, but that isn’t his role either (though he does have many assists this year).  He is there to find the twine, which he did more than any other in the Premier League this season.  While his second half was not nearly as strong as his first, his hat trick performance against the Villains was a strong rebound near the end of the season.  There are a few knocks on his game – he has always carried with him the idea of fragility, mostly due to his seasons of nagging injuries with Arsenal.  He’s reversed that with United, as #20 has been available for Sir Al in almost every fixture.  Robin is not a great defender.  I know what your thinking – of course he’s not there to defend.  I only bring that up to contrast with Wayne Rooney.

Wayne Rooney has been at United since he was just out of swaddling clothes.  It seems like he’s been there for ages, but really, he’s not that old at all.  Wayne’s game has as much to do with his striking abilities as it does grit, determination and fitness.  Whereas Robin van Persie is an all-out striker, I see Roo as being multi-dimensional.  Anyone who has every watched even one United game will no doubt have come to the realization that this guy can also defend – which is why I noted the defensive abilities (or inabilities) of Robin van Persie.  How many times have we seen Rooney track all the way back to his own box, then break out the ball moments later?  Don’t answer – rhetorical.  Rooney is extremely excitable, which at times has been a detriment to his game.  He is still listed as a striker, but many question if his M.O. has changed over the past couple of seasons – he’s even spent a good portion of the season in midfield.

The interesting thing is how Ferguson has treated the two this year.  Being completely unbiased and from an outsider’s perspective, it seems to me Sir Alex has favoured Robin over Wayne.  Of course we know Rooney missed some time this season so the decision to play v.Persie as much as he did was an easy one, but that aside, didn’t it seem like Rooney was asked to sit even when healthy more often than in the past?  Even in some of the club’s biggest matches in European competition Rooney didn’t start in favour of combinations of Van Persie and Chicharito, or even Kagawa at midfield – we’ll get to that in a minute…

In the end, it is up to the club and Sir Alex Ferguson to make this decision.  For me, he has been luke warm at best when discussing Wayne Rooney.  He’s quick to always point out that there is no rift between the two, but tape doesn’t lie – just go back and watch or listen to press conferences this year.

In the first match against Everton, Rooney had a poor game and picked up a nick in the middle of the game.  Ferguson, more or less, said that it was a good thing he did because it made his decision to bench him easier.  He went further by saying Rooney showed up 7 pounds overweight and would need a month in the gym to get back into game shape.  SLAP!

Almost as stupid, Sir Alex found a way to bench Wayne during the Christmas holiday fixtures and cited that he was “ill”, when in actual fact he was benched because he was out partying and was not following team dietary restrictions.  It’s bloody Christmas break!  I’m not saying he can’t, or even shouldn’t, bench one of his players, I’m suggesting that he’s found many stupid reasons to do so.

For me, perhaps the ultimate slap in the face occurred when United had  a weekend fixture against Norwich and a mid-week match against Real Madrid in the Champions League.  In a decision that pissed off many, many United faithful, Ferguson chose to play Rooney for the full 90 minutes against Norwich, and bench him for the contest against the Spanish side.  What made matters worse, the Devils destroyed Norwich 4-nil, and he could have easily been subbed at halftime and played mid-week against Madrid.  Instead, Fergie played him (and others such as Valencia and Vidic), for the full match and went to play their Champions League match with a less than stellar line-up.  I have a few friends who are rabid United supporters, and all of them were absolutely livid and dumbfounded.

I am not a Red Devils fan.  I loathe Robin Van Persie for reasons mentioned at the outset, though I do recognize he did save their season from his first half play.  I don’t “like” Rooney either, for the record, though I appreciate his tenacity (part of the reason why I love watching Jack Wilshere play).  I am not one to bite every rumour that circulates, but the recent ones suggesting United’s #10 is leaving seems legitimate given they way his season has gone.

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