Ever since Paul Scholes decided to hang up his boots, questions about his successor have surrounded Sir Alex and Manchester United. Having tried Cleverly, Anderson, Giggs, Carrick and Fletcher in central midfield, Sir Alex is clearly not very confident in the choices he has in the middle of the park. The latest name to be used in the much talked about position is Wayne Rooney. Rooney has started three matches in central midfield in a row for United now, with United winning all three of them. But Sir Alex can not rely upon Rooney to carry on in midfield for the rest of the season as it is clearly not his most favoured position.
Under Sir Alex, Rooney has transformed from being a child prodigy at Everton, to one of the most talented and most feared forwards in the world. And that is where he should be used
As such Rooney is not a typical number 9 in the mould of someone like Fernando Torres. He often drops deep in search for the ball and is not afraid to put in a shift every single match. He has the ability to play quick one-twos with accompanying players,as on display in this goal.
He is also perhaps one of the top five long passers in the league at the moment. All these points suggest that he can play in central midfield and in Scholes’ position to be more specific. A player of Rooney’s calibre and commitment can certainly do so and he will do it, but shouldn’t.
One of the reasons is that it disturbs the balance of the team. No other player in the team, except Dimitar Berbatov is capable of playing as a lone frontman. However, with Sir Alex turning a blind eye towards the Bulgarian, he is left with Welbeck, Chicharito, Macheda, Owen and Mame Biram Diouf, in that order. None of these players has displayed the ability to play as a lone striker so far this season. The above point has been on display in the past three matches where United have scored just four goals with two of them being penalties and one being an own goal. Welbeck is a tireless runner but also looks a little out of ideas in tight situations. Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez has world class movement and poaching abilities but his link up play in and around the box leaves a lot to be desired. Macheda, Owen and Diouf have hardly featured this season in the league and would find their chances limited against such a stacked forward line.
The second reason being Rooney’s temperament. Although he wears his heart on his sleeve whenever he steps on the field for United, he has also had a bad behavioural streak throughout the years. It wouldn’t take much to flip his mood and Rooney in a bad frame of mind can be a menace for both the opposition and United as well. Can it turn out to be the latter, likely because over the years Rooney has shown inability to handle off field pressures and his performances have dipped whenever he has been involved in a controversy.
It can ultimately turn out to be a stop-gap solution by Sir Alex, but isn’t proving to be a master stroke at present. United probably should have signed a proper central midfielder during the summer transfer window and probably will do it during the winter window. But Sir Alex, being the keen team builder that he is should have thought and considered this situation before rolling the dice. With Wesley Sneijder looking out of reach now, it is perhaps up to Sir Alex and Rooney to sort out the situation.