A less than convincing Red Devils side claimed three more points against Stoke City to put them within touching distance of league silverware
By Rasheed Abu Bakar
We saw another familiar side of Wayne Rooney at the Britannia Stadium over the weekend. Like a conductor of an orchestra, Rooney was instrumental in the majority of United’s attacks. I am not too sure how long Sir Alex Ferguson is going to play Shinji Kagawa out of position, but Rooney pulled the strings very well in midfield to make sure United secured three more points and are on course for the title.
After the loss to City, a teeny weenie doubt crept into mind. Could we pull through and secure the title? Is the gap between City and us enough? The win over Stoke did little to convince me – we looked toothless and average – but for some reason, I do feel Ferguson and the players won’t bottle it.
With Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez at the top, Rooney partnered Michael Carrick in the middle of the park. Carrick’s talent in protecting the back four meant Rooney was free to do whatever he wanted in that area just outside the box. He sprayed passes comfortably and his close-control skills created space for him to find Van Persie and Hernandez.
You have to feel for Ferguson. What or rather, where is Rooney’s best role? The 27-year-old is immensely talented and on his day, can really unlock and punish the tightest of defenses but the lack of creativity behind him in midfield means he often falls back to help spark chances – leaving a void upfront.
Rooney looked at ease in his midfield role whereas the player that Ferguson brought in to address the lack of creativity found himself in unfamiliar territory. Kagawa played on the left wing and honestly, looked out of sorts. Each time he received the ball, either he passed it back or tried to move towards the centre of the pitch.
The talent is evident in the Japanese. He has got two very quick feet and can thread a ball through the tightest of gaps so it makes sense to get him roaming behind the striker and not on the wings. It’s not a creative midfielder that we need next season; it’s a speedy and direct winger that will whip in plentiful of crosses so the likes of Rooney and Kagawa can hone their skills and influence play from their most effective positions.
Without sounding like a spoilt pessimistic fan, I thought we still looked flat and out of ideas. I’m going to bring this up again and you’re not going to like it: We have looked average since the lost to Real Madrid. Yes, we are suffering from Madriditis.
Yes, we got the three points and Van Persie scored (albeit from the spot and not from open play), but I would have loved for us to trouble Asmir Begovic more. Apart from a couple of saves and the two goals he conceded, the Stoke City goalkeeper was merely a spectator, much like Joe Hart last Monday night. If this game was played before the Madrid game, I’m sure we would have easily scored three to four goals.
While Rooney see-saws through form, coupled with Van Persie’s recent lack of goals, I am glad we are just a few games to the end of the season. The healthy lead should get us through the line but there is work to be done for next season. While Ferguson dwells over that, my mouth waters at the possibility of Van Persie being crowned Premier League champions at his old stomping ground, The Emirates.