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Fergie Comes Around On Rooney

Alex Ferguson, according to a story on the Guardian today, admitted that Rooney’s real position is through the middle either upfront or just behind.

On first glance it may appear like an admission of past mistakes but it could also mean that he’s fairly confident about snaring Berbatov from Spurs.

That Rooney’s not a wide man comes as no surprise. We all have seen how we can’t quite see the best of him when he’s away from the centre of the action. He will give his all when deployed anywhere. But his best position is and will always be in the hole behind the target man. Thankfully, Fergie seems to understand this:

“I think Wayne’s best position is through the middle, either the front role or tucking in just behind,” Ferguson said. “He is aggressive, has good pace and the courage to go in the box. There’s no reason why he can’t get a good supply of goals. But he may have benefited by having someone with more experience with him. That always happens with young strikers. We have to define Wayne’s role better.

Ferguson stressing on the need for defining a role for Rooney reveals what he may have been thinking about him all along. He has done this previously, when he declared Alan Smith to be the next Roy Keane, deploying him in midfield. It was ill-advised and although Smudger was forced out of his central midfield position due to a horrific injury, Fergie realised he couldn’t let his experiment last any longer and bought Michael Carrick.

We did buy a lot of players last summer and with Saha staying injured, he had little choice but to declare Rooney as the next target man. It was credit to our fluid system (and Ronaldo’s ability to give us that aerial strength when the situation demanded) that we didn’t really have to deal with the lack of a target man. But there were plenty of frustrating moments where crosses were whipped and the ball was crying to be put into the net — either headed or toe-poked. And there were other occasions when we would break forward but both our strikers would be in our own half. Tevez and Rooney have dovetailed perfectly for us, but sometimes they seem to have too much hunger to want the ball that they forget their core competencies. It’s not a knock on their respective abilities, but rather, their hunger to contribute for the team’s cause every which way sometimes works against them. Which is why the likes of Berbatov (or even an injury free Saha) prove to be much better options to have.

Back to Rooney though, it is about time he was asked to play behind someone who knows where the back of the net is and is not in direct competition with Wayne. It will take the pressure off Rooney. Even last season, whilst Ronaldo was banging them in, Rooney somehow felt the need to try something cute or over do his finishing. He continues to have seasons better than previous ones, as Scott suggested in his post yesterday, but we are yet to see that marquee season from him where he really breaks away from his shackles (or whatever that is holding him back) and makes the world sit up and take notice.

Till that day, we would sound like scousers proclaiming this to be Wayne Rooney’s season. (That said, I now shudder having compared ourselves with our friends from Merseyside.)

* * *

Those wondering where my match report for the Orlando Pirates went, well, there wasn’t any because I couldn’t watch the game — thanks to work. If you want the official report, it’s here which, if you read without knowledge of the scoreline, you might be forgiven for thinking that we handed them a thumping. I think I’d rather read from one of the blogs, like this one — complete with player ratings.

* * *

Finally, don’t forget to join our fantasy football league, with prizes (for the winners, of course).

75 Comments

75 Comments

  1. tevez

    23 July 2008 at 19:15

    I disagree. For the majority of the season we played 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 with tevez playing in a withdrawn role and rooney on the shoulder. This is not a lone striker role. I consider that to be a rooney-tevez strike partnership. Rooney provided a long option and he done it well. I cannot remember once during the season where rooney was meant to be playing through the middle and he spent a large period of time out on a wing. I can’t remember him hugging a touchline. He made intelligent runs into space. Spaces in a back line are often found in between a centre half and a full back, and it is here that most strikers who play on the last man will look to be played through. That is good movement. A main striker who plays with their back to goal, often tall and strong but who lack enough pace to worry defenders would be more disciplined. They are less mobile and as such it is not their game to move about and exploit gaps in a team’s defense. I understand that this is your preferred style for a main striker, someone with more of a presence about them, but that does not mean rooney’s style is wrong or ineffective. Other strikers such as eto’o or villa use a style closer to rooney’s than a huntelaar or van nistelrooy. They are still two of the best strikers in the world. Henry is one of the greatest players to play in the premiership and yet he rarely seemed eager to get in the box. A big target man/goal poacher is not necessarily the most effective for a main striker.
    I think rooney is effective as a main striker because he makes those intelligent runs and provides the likes of scholes, carrick and tevez with a great option. This is evident in the fact that rooney missed so many one on ones last season. Yes, he did miss, but he continually made more chances and for that he had to be making the right runs. He needs to work on taking his chances. If he was more composed, it would become harder for fans to argue about holding him in the same bracket as villa, eto’o, torres,etc.

  2. Nico QB

    23 July 2008 at 19:17

    I’ve been watching a lot of moscow celebration vids on youtube… and many are excellent! It seems the fans have found the time to upload them videos.
    Especially look for fans’ reactions videos, like this one, where they completely lose it in the sitting room in front of the telly while friends look on amused! Well I guess most of us congaed around on that day.. 😛

  3. tevez

    23 July 2008 at 19:18

    For grognard, btw 🙂

  4. Liam

    23 July 2008 at 22:51

    Rooney and Tevez do make a very good partnership. You only have to look at some of our highlights to see that (my particular favourites are the goal against Boro when Rooney back heeled to Tevez to slot into or the whole second half against Wigan). Its just that after Rooney came back from injury in November they were rarely played as a front 2 after that. Ferguson preferred to leave Tevez as an impact sub. We didnt hammer as many teams in the second half of the season(ie win by 3 or 4 goals) as we did in the first half of the season when Rooney, Tevez and Ronaldo was our strike force.

    What we need is not a 20m plus striker who will kick up a fuss everytime he’s left on the bench. What we need is as close of a version of Ole as we can find. Somebody cheap who can do a job coming off the bench. If we are going for a big striker we should go for Eto’o. I know he is a bit unstable upstairs but I think he would be perfect for our style and would probably cost less than Berba. It would really be a shame if he went to play in Uzbekistan

  5. Tomas

    23 July 2008 at 22:56

    @Liam: So you don’t want an expensive striker that would kick up a fuss if left on the bench, but you would like to have Eto’o, who’s an expensive striker that would kick up a fuss if left on the bench?

  6. Grognard

    23 July 2008 at 23:14

    @Stephen: The thing to remember about Rooney is he still is only 22 or 23 I believe. That’s so incredible when you think he seems like he has played for us forever. His best years won’t come for another 2 or 3 years so he has lots of room to grow and improve. Deal with his temperament and you will solve the puzzle for all that is wrong with his game. Calm him down and do as you say, teach him to wait for a ball instead of always chasing it, and he will be untouchable. Right now he is thinking like a defensive American football player who is trained to go where his man or the ball is going. Patience and a calmer demeanor will make many of us forget Ronaldo, because on his day, Rooney can be just as great. He just went off the rails a bit the past couple of years and Fergie admitted that part of the blame is his. I’m expecting big things from Wayne but he better stop smoking too.

  7. Grognard

    23 July 2008 at 23:20

    @Tomas: There is a way and I have used it in coaching high school basketball as well as US style football. It’s called sitting him on the bench until he can prove to me he is thinking about the team and not himself. It’s pure selfishness and arrogance to constantly go above and beyond what is expected of you. Especially when you endanger the success of the team by picking up yellow and red cards. He needs to know that this kind of effort although admirable in intent, is undesirable in the overall team concept. He is hurting his team with his temper more than he is helping them. Sitting him on the bench when he least expects and letting him know this will continue unless he gets his emotions in line. Does Fergie have the guts to do it? You bet he does but up to now he hasn’t. To be fair to the boss, games today are all so vital there are rarely any times in the year you can sacrifice a top player just to teach him a valuable lesson. But if forced to, Fergie will. Especially if he has some insurance with the addition of Berbatov. I also think that Berbatov’s intelligent and often effortless style of play may rub off on Rooney and show him that running full boar after opponents is not the only way to succeed as a forward.

  8. Grognard

    23 July 2008 at 23:24

    @Nico QB: Sweet. Thanks Nico. Love that Hargo. And if my wife was still around, I’d let him shag her. I’m wondering though, when are the fans going to write a song for the Grognard. Sure there may be a lot of hate lyrics but it would be fun nevertheless. 😆

  9. Grognard

    23 July 2008 at 23:28

    @tevez: I don’t dislike the Rooney Tevez partnership but I am honest when I say I see more negatives than positives. That doesn’t discount the fact that at times last year they were magical together. Still, Berbatov with Rooney or Berbatov with Tevez has the potential for a lot more because of Berbatov’s ability to hold up the ball, distribute the ball with vision and finesses and his ability to create magical moments and chances through one touch football. He’s not Cantona, but he is similar to him in many ways. He will make Rooney and Tevez better players.

  10. Nico QB

    24 July 2008 at 00:49

    @Red Ranter: Well RedRanter, Rafa has the answer for you! Buy 4 more RBs (ok counting Simmo, make that 3) and we’re set to make the treble this time! 😆

  11. Grognard

    24 July 2008 at 01:32

    I’m noticing that Ronaldo has himself another girlfriend and once again it’s a model. His nightlife and sex life is starting to get out of hand and it’s only a matter of time before Fergie awakens to it and does to him what he did to Beckham. Beckham was married to one woman and although he started to act like a fashion plate and celebrity, he never lived in the fast lane like Ronaldo. Ronny dumps a woman and has a new one within a week. He’s also obviously attracted to air headed gold digging fashionista’s and that spells bad news.

    Now honestly, I don’t want to accuse Fergie of being a hypocrite because I love the man but explain to me why Beckham’s lifestyle was so unsatisfactory and unpalatable to him but Ronaldo’s orgies, girlfriends every other week and posh Hollywood style nightlife seems to go unnoticed by the Boss? I have to say that Beckham was treated unfairly and was uncermoniously booted out of OT for far less than what Ronaldo has gotten away with. My question is simply why? Why the double standards Fergie? I don’t see Beckham with tons of girls and ones that are posing on the beach topless. I see a married man with children living in luxury and enjoying himself as he should. I just don’t get why Ronaldo is being treated with such kid gloves, while Beckham who was the consummate team player had cleats kicked at him and was benched for numerous games. Ronaldo on the other hand will get what kind of punishment? 😕 ❓

  12. Red Ranter

    24 July 2008 at 01:51

    @Grognard:

    There is no double standard here. Ronaldo never missed training citing his personal life as an issue. Ferguson still maintains that Becks wasn’t fair to his team mates:
    In 2000, Beckham was given permission to miss training to look after his son Brooklyn, who had gastroenteritis, but Ferguson was furious when Victoria Beckham was photographed at a London Fashion Week event on the same night, claiming that Beckham would have been able to train if Victoria had looked after Brooklyn that day. He responded by fining Beckham the maximum amount that was permitted (two weeks’ wages – then £50,000) and dropping him for a crucial match against United’s rivals Leeds United. He later criticised Beckham for this in his autobiography, claiming he had not been “fair to his team mates”
    [Source Wikipedia]

    Ferguson doesn’t have problems with players having fun because he can tell if they are getting carried away and are not focused on their job.

    In a recent interview when asked which of his players were of the smarter kind, he said that Cristiano was one of them. We may hate him for what he’s done, but we can’t escape the fact that to satisfy his ego as a footballer, he drives himself to succeed whether in training or on the pitch. And I believe Fergie recognizes this.

    And you said you see Beckham as a married man enjoying life as “he should”. It is not upto us to decide how he should enjoy his life. That’s upto him. As long as it doesn’t affect his football I don’t give a damn and that’s why Fergie also doesn’t seem to.

    If Ronaldo starts skipping training because he needed a foot massage from an exotic woman, then I’d be interested to know how Fergie reacts.

  13. colver

    24 July 2008 at 02:29

    Three top strikers is perfectly reasonable. There are games when the Rooney/Tevez partnership will be just what the doctor ordered, others where Berbatov/Rooney will make sense. Rooney ALWAYS gets injured for a month or so each season and in that case we’ll have Berbatov/Tevez. Moreover I still think there are questions over Tevez’s fitness and I do not see him playing two games a week. Playing him in rotation will help us get the best out of him.

    The problem last year was that we only had two recognised strikers so were forced to use Ronaldo as the third striker. That worked really well but Ronaldo is a winger and does more damage there.

    I also find it strange Ferguson is so tolerant of Ronaldo’s partying. I mean if you believe the tabloids he’s had seven girlfriends within the space of a year not to mention the hookers and the one night stands we probably do not hear about. It seems a far cry from the stable family life Ferguson advocates for the rest of his players.

    Really though Im not too worried. For Ronaldo these are obviously trophy girlfriends and despite going through seven or so girls (excluding hookers) in a year it doesn’t seem to be affecting his game in the slightest. Maybe it will catch up with him later in life but by that time ill sure he’ll be at Real and it will be in our interests that he fades Best/Ronaldinho style!

  14. tevez

    24 July 2008 at 02:52

    Tevez is tireless. He has spent the last two summers on international duty and yet his industry on the pitch is still evident. Considering his playing style, he has performed remarkably without a break for three seasons. He could be forgiven for being fatigued near the end of the last two seasons, but he was still so influential. He was the catalyst for the west ham revival at the business end of the season two years ago. What about the barcelona away game last season? How much running did he do? He certainly didn’t look tired then. He looked sharp and strong near the end of a long, hard season in a big, big game. He has had a full rest this summer, so he comes back raring to go and probably hasn’t felt this good for a few years. If you have doubts about player’s fitness, it shouldn’t be tevez’s.

  15. Red Ranter

    24 July 2008 at 03:06

    @tevez: You would defend him, wouldn’t you? After all you call yourself Tevez. 🙂 Seriously though, I agree with you regarding his stamina. I expect a lot from him this season with the break he’s had.

  16. johnsom33

    24 July 2008 at 03:14

    @Tomas: ok stop right there, you’ll never win anything with 11 ronaldo’s? didnt we just win the League and europe with 1 Ronaldo? Yes football is a team game and no one man wins games by himself, but wether you like it or not our team was built around Ronaldo. I understand that everyone hate ronaldo now, and that is fair and reasonable. the man has proved himself to be a first class cunt, but you cant deny the impact he has on the field. Donibrasco is right, Rooney is a very good player and one of the top in the League, but he is not in the upper echelon of players like Ronaldo, messi…yet(and I stress yet, i realize he is still young)

  17. johnsom33

    24 July 2008 at 03:36

    In that article that was posted the other day from the Mirror I noticed that it said Ronaldo’s crew drank bottle after bottle of alchohol, but Ronaldo didnt have a sip. I think that speaks volumes about his priority’s. It shows he takes good care of his body, and doesnt want to let his off the pitch antics affect his football. as far as shagging any one in sight? thats cool as long as he straps up, cause im sure STD’s have never helped anyones footballing.

  18. saudi red devil

    24 July 2008 at 04:22

    IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO WIN WITH 11 RONALDOS

    Simply because he wouldnt be able to make Edwin like saves or make a good defensive partnership like Vida and Rio or become Evra or even Brown, a lot of people pin us winning the double on Ronaldo but the reality is without our back five Ronaldo would be just another top scorer whose team won nothing out of their season.

  19. Grognard

    24 July 2008 at 05:19

    @Red Ranter: Well thanks for that background information RR. I was not aware of those incidents as back then that kind of news was harder to find here in Canada than usual. I do have a different opinion of the situation although I still feel that how a family deals with their sick child is nobody’s business. Missing a practice to attend to a sick child is no big deal. Perhaps Posh could not get out of the event she had to go to as it was part of her Spice Girls contract. Lets not forget that she too has a professional career. Is it more important than a practice? I won’t be the judge but I think Fergie made a big deal out of it. If he had found Beckham out partying or at that gala event, then Yes throw the book at him. I make no bones about being a Beckham fan and maybe I am a little bitter over how he was literally booted out of OT. For me I saw no lack of professionalism or focus on the pitch and although I agree with you about Ronaldo’s professionalism and attitude on the pitch, I still feel that he is being treated like a teacher’s pet. It seems he can do no wrong….even when he clearly does wrong. I just don’t get Fergie’s total devotion and love for this guy. I even think some of his on field antics that are often selfish and rude in nature are not punished. Nothing sticks to him. From now on he will be known as the TEFLON RON. 😀

  20. Tomas

    24 July 2008 at 07:03

    @johnsom33: I’m actually one of the few people, who doesn’t hate Ronaldo in here, I think, so that’s not why, I make this claim.

    Players like Ronaldo are the ones who add that extra spice, but that wouldn’t matter, if you didn’t have someone doing all the running. I’m not talking about Ronaldo and Rooney specifically, but their breed of style and attitude.

    If you honestly think that 11 skillplayers will win you anything, I believe, your knowledge of the game needs an upgrade. If a team of 11 Rooney’s and 11 Ronaldo’s met, the Rooney’s would squash the Ronaldo’s, simply due to effort and heart.

    But having one Ronaldo can be more lethal than having one Rooney, because there is room for a player with his qualities, when the rest of the team works as hard as the players here do.

    I’m not discrediting Ronaldo, because I think he’s awesome. And I think, he played a major part in us winning the double. I’m not so sure that our game is built around him, as for instance Barcelona built their game around Ronaldinho. A lot of Ronaldo’s goals come from clever runs into and positioning in the area… simply his game intelligence. It’s not like we desperately need to give him the ball, he just often gets it due to the way he moves. Ronaldinho stayed on the left and ALWAYS received the ball out there, which is a different way of building the play around a single player.

  21. Tomas

    24 July 2008 at 07:39

    @Grognard: The “sitting-Rooney-on-the-bench” bit is absolute nonsense imo.

    Neither he nor the team would benefit from that. It’s just a matter of him being that way, and he will mature with age. It’s a natural development. I do agree that it can be necessary to install some form of aid or discipline for some players, but Rooney is certainly not in the catagory of players needing that. He’s feisty, yes, and he does get bookings. He’s never red carded, and all though he could have had one or two for some of his tackles, it hasn’t happened. I couldn’t care less, if he receives a booking 5 times a season because of his temper.

    Ferguson believes Rooney’s aggression and heart is so important to the team that he wouldn’t be without it. Of course, Ferguson can’t condone all of the tackles, because some of them endanger the health of players. It’s a fine line, but Rooney animates the rest of the team for success, and Ferguson has stated this quite a few times. This animation might lessen, if his aggression lessens. Unfortunately with the aggression comes a few bad tackels and a foul mouth, but there are certainly worse players than Rooney. I for one would be very disappointed, if Ferguson benched Rooney, and I would also be disappointed, if he didn’t bench him with the many important matches as reason. He should be kept on the field because of his desire, aggression and will to win.

  22. Grognard

    24 July 2008 at 16:36

    @Tomas: Sorry Tomas but I disagree with you. The boy is great need of discipline and he needs to not only reign in his over exuberance but his work rate too. He expends far too much unnecessary energy and that often puts him on the boil. Then he either makes a bad tackle, loses his temper or he makes a meal of a great opportunity because he has lost his focus and concentration. I have coached boys who are exactly like that. Trust me, he is not so special and so unique as you may think. What he has and why folks like you turn the other cheek is desire and talent. If he wasn’t so well liked for these traits, all those extra and often dirty sides of his game would not be welcome at all. Then you would have an Alan Smith. In order to be a great goal scoring striker, you need to be composed and in total control of your body and emotions. Rooney needs to learn that there are specific moments where he should be giving his all and that isn’t all the time. His heart and aggression is important to the team. It just needs to be channeled and controlled properly. That will limit the bad habits, but it will improve his offensive game by leaps and bounds.

  23. Tomas

    24 July 2008 at 17:07

    @Grognard: As I wrote, he will mature, but it won’t come sooner by benching him. I simply don’t believe that. It will come naturally to him, when he gets older and wiser.

    I don’t disagree with you that he needs to channel his energy differently sometimes, I just believe it to be a natural development that can’t be hastened by punishing him, because it lies so deeply in him. Forcing him to think too much about it could make him loose focus on the things, he’s good at already.

    And the reason I like Rooney is not so much his talent (even though it is phenomenal imo)… it’s his aggression and desire. And I don’t think, you can seperate his desire from those tackles. They may come out of frustration, but frustration comes out of desire to win and be your best, not from tiredness. Yes they may come, when he’s tired, but if he was tired and not had the desire, he wouldn’t make the tackles.

    That means that you have to accept the tackles, if you accept his desire. I accept the tackles and can’t wait for him to mature his way out of making them, because it will only make him even better, as long as it doesn’t mean him losing the desire as well.

  24. Nico QB

    24 July 2008 at 18:25

    @johnsom33: Well johnsom, the fact that his dad was an alcoholic i think nailed in him the message to be careful when it comes to alcohol perhaps?

    Certainly when it comes to women he’s not as careful!

  25. NiKOS

    24 July 2008 at 18:50

    :mrgreen: great news!

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