Wayne Rooney exit would leave two voids – goals and creativity


Wembley Stadium

When, in ITV's build-up to this match, Lee Dixon argued it would be daft to sell Wayne Rooney to a title rival in Chelsea, Roy Keane responded, "Sell him to Fulham then". David Moyes would rather not sell Rooney at all, and certainly not until he has found a replacement. That, though, even for a club of Manchester United's wealth and appeal, will be difficult for Rooney, as a succession of England managers have come to realise, is a hard act to replace.

The truculent maestro may not have been at his best for United last season but if he goes he will leave two voids, his goals and his creativity. Take away Robin van Persie and United's starting line-up yesterday mustered just 20 league goals between them last season – six of them in the second tier. Van Persie's 26 goals may have taken United to the title, but they would have been unlikely to have won it without Rooney's 12-goal contribution. Aside from Javier Hernandez, who hit 10, no one else scored more than the opposition did for United, Shinji Kagawa's half-dozen in the Premier League, and Wilfried Zaha's six in the Championship, matching the own goals gifted the champions.

This may be the season Danny Welbeck discovers his goalscoring touch but one goal in 27 league appearances last season does not augur well. It is not as if the wide men or midfelders chip in, à la Gareth Bale or Frank Lampard. Ryan Giggs and Tom Cleverley scored two apiece, Nani, Antonio Valencia and Anderson one, and Ashley Young failed to score at all.

Then there is the creative aspect. The goal of last season was arguably Van Persie's volley against Aston Villa. Rooney was the supplier, with that inch-perfect, searching 40-yard pass. It is that combination of goal-maker and taker which makes Rooney hard to replace. Hernandez would probably score as many goals, but he operates best off the shoulder of the last defender, which would force Van Persie to drop deep on a near permanent basis. Cleverley is astute between the lines, playing short give-and-go passes on the edge of the box, but he lacks Rooney's passing range and goalscoring. Kagawa may be the man, but he was given just eight minutes off the bench yesterday.

The pursuit of players such as Cesc Fabregas, Thiago Alcantara and Luka Modric reflects Moyes' recognition that United are not blessed with players who can unlock tight defences. This was underlined at Wembley as, despite total dominance of possession, United created only two clear chances in the opening half. One was a simple ball, albeit a precise one, flung into the box by Patrice Evra which was converted into a goal by Van Persie's brilliance and Wigan's lax marking. The second, again from Evra, led to Cleverley prompting Scott Carson's first save of the match.

It was, though, a save that was more spectacular than testing, the ball being at a decent height rather than drilled low towards a corner as Lampard would have done. Offered a second opportunity to run on to a shot on the edge of the box early in the second period Cleverly scuffed his effort so badly the ball bobbled wide.

Cleverley played in central midfield, slightly more advanced than Michael Carrick in a flexible 4-4-2. Zaha hugged the right flank, occasionally cutting in, while on the left Giggs and Van Persie's strike partner Welbeck interchanged, allowing Evra space to overlap. There was a degree of fluidity but not enough to create the chances United's possession deserved. Which is why the search continues for reinforcements.

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home