Manchester United: Is Rooney the natural replacement for Scholes?
Ever since Paul Scholes reached his 30s and entered the twilight years of his career there has been a recurring question passing the lips of football enthusiasts the world over: Who is the man to eventually undertake the near impossible task of replacing him?
After last year’s mid-season retirement U-turn, and the excellent age-defying form he has shown in the early stages of this campaign, it appears there is still a few gallons left in the gas tank and United still have time to get the right player and find their ideal replacement - in fact they may already have him.
Wayne Rooney is regarded as one of the best, if not THE best, strikers in world football and in recent years has made exceeding the 20-goal target a pretty regular occurrence. But any football fan who has watched his career closely will be aware that Rooney’s game is much more than just goal scoring. His vision, awareness, inter-play, excellent passing and eagerness to win the ball make him the complete player.
Three assists in his last two games is evidence of Rooney’s ability to create goals for his team-mates, but I’m not for one second suggesting he’s the finished article in this position or at present an immediate replacement for Scholes. There’s no question he needs work with the coaches and the manager before he reaches that level as he has spent the duration of his career training as a striker, but he undoubtedly has the natural talent and attributes to be a huge success in the centre of the field.
Many players have been earmarked as a potential replacement for Scholes. Tom Cleverley is the latest candidate and judging by his start to the season this argument could carry some weight. He appears to be developing into a good, technically sound, able young player capable of neat interplay and injections of pace. But it is hard to envisage him ever becoming close to Rooney’s level in terms of spacial awareness, use of the ball and in particular, threat on the oppositions goal.
Shinji Kagawa has filled some of the creative void that was oh so evident in previous seasons, but it’s becoming clear he prefers to play in a more advanced role, ideally behind the striker. So with Scholes unable to play week in, week out, due to his age, this leaves United without a player able to open up teams or stretch defences from deeper positions, when he isn’t in the side.
Wesley Sneijder has been the subject of much speculation and linked heavily with a move to Old Trafford during the past few transfer windows. With Fergie claiming to have never been interested in signing the Dutchman, whether or not these rumours were true or simply tabloid talk is unclear. What is clear though is if United were interested, he would have cost in excess of £30 million. The same can be said of Luka Modric, also linked with a switch to Old Trafford, who eventually completed his transfer to Real Madrid for a fee of around £33 million.
So it’s clear if United wish to acquire a player similar, or even close to Scholes’s ability, they will have to pay big bucks to do so. Alternatively, if Rooney were to slot into this deeper role, with Van Persie, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck up front ensuring there isn’t a lack of goals in the team, this could make economic sense for United as it would save them a fortune in a transfer fee.
One final reason this switch of position could benefit United is that since the exit of Roy Keane United have not possessed a player in their midfield with the drive, aggression and determination of their former captain. Rooney has the natural fire to take up this role and, for a striker, is a good tackler so could even break up play too. Combined with his creative spark and his eye for goal which will see his name continue to frequent the score-sheets, the move could work well for Rooney, United and the money men upstairs.
The question Sir Alex Ferguson and his coaching staff will have to ask themselves is whether it’s logical to largely neutralise an element of Rooney’s game, his goal threat, in order for the team to benefit from his creativity and wonderful passing game.
With Robin Van Persie also in the side the answer is probably yes.
Calling all United fans: What do you think about Daryl's claim? Would you like to see Rooney play in a midfield role? Would you be happy to see him drop back into the engine room and pull the strings for Van Persie and Welbeck or would you rather Fergie splashed the cash on a world class midfielder to replace Scholes, allowing Rooney to do what he does best, score? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.
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