Wayne Rooney's Injury Makes it Chelsea's Title to Lose

Without even kicking a ball, Chelsea were given a gift this week.  One roll of Wayne Rooney’s ankle has altered the dynamic of the entire 2009-10 EPL campaign, and has handed Carlo Ancelotti more than just a lifeline, but possibly the title itself.  While the Italian would never admit that the championship may have been won Tuesday night in Munich, this is the injury that Manchester United simply could not afford as the season enters its business end.

Soccer is not a statistics game.  We that watch it know that more so than any other sport, a football match stat sheet can look you in the eyes and flat out lie.  But in the case of United’s season, the stats don’t lie, they don’t mislead, heck, they don’t even fib.  Rooney’s 34 goals dwarf second-running Dimitar Berbatov’s 12 on the season.  A quick glance at the United squad, and one will find it difficult to spot another real goal threat.  For all the growth of Antonio Valencia and Nani as the season has progressed, they are not true goalscorers, and United would be absolutely nowhere without Rooney.

The departure of Cristiano Ronaldo last summer posed the question of who would get the goals for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.  And Wayne Rooney has answered the bell in emphatic fashion.  But his potential 4-week setback begs a new question:  who will now get the goals when they have grown so accustomed to the English starlet bagging them at will?

Look, no one is implying that Ferguson lacks the dexterity or expertise to rally his troops and use his tactical acumen to get a goal or two without his talisman.  To question him would just be plain foolish.  But, it is a telling point that he has kept his £30 million man Dimitar Berbatov to lurk in the shadows of Old Trafford all season long.  A great eye for talent that can work within his system, Ferguson has left Berbatov on the bench because he knows his side are better without him.  But it will be Berbatov that must emerge from those shadows and be United’s savior if they are to claim any silverware this season.  And the jury is still out on the lanky Bulgarian.

To be fair, Berbatov possesses extraordinary skill with the ball, often making the difficult look simple.  His passing is always precise, making it easy to link midfield with attack.  So much so that it is as if he is an attacking midfielder in a striker’s body.  But it is his low work-rate that still drives United fans up the wall.  It is not just his lanky frame or his long, slow strides that deceptively make him look a lazy player.  That is how he plays.  He rarely helps on the defensive side of things and simply does not do enough running to lead the line.  And in Ferguson’s system this season (not to mention the simple lack of options at striker), leading the line is what he will have to do.  It is not in Berbatov’s game to play the role of sole striker, and his lackadaisical approach to the striker position will be difficult for United to overcome.  He is the antithesis of Rooney in his work-rate.  When losing the ball, he rarely hustles to win it back, a hallmark of Manchester United forward play.  To combat Berbatov’s inability to play up front on his own, look for Ryan Giggs to come in as a second striker, and for Ferguson to employ more of a 4-4-1-1 system for the remainder of the campaign.

Chelsea will be chomping at the bit for this one, with Didier Drogba passing his fitness test for Saturday.  Drogba and Rooney have been the premier strikers in the EPL this season, but with Rooney out, Chelsea will have to believe their route to the promised land just became a much easier one.  The loss of Rooney is easily quantified with the dearth of goals behind him, but it is much more than that.  He is their leader, their focal point, their heart and their soul.  But anything can happen in 90 minutes of football, and if United can somehow muster an early goal, magic can happen at Old Trafford.  If United win and go on to retain their title, it will surely be one of Alex Ferguson’s all-time Houdini acts.  But don’t expect it to happen now that their all-conquering talisman will be watching from the stands.

Projected lineups:

Manchester United:  Edwin Van der Sar; Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra; Nani, Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick, Ji-Sung Park; Ryan Giggs; Dimitar Berbatov

Chelsea:  Petr Cech; Paolo Ferriera, Alex, John Terry, Yuri Zhirkov; Mikel John Obi, Deco, Frank Lampard; Nicolas Anelka, Florent Malouda, Didier Drogba

Prediction: Manchester United 1 – 2 Chelsea

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24 thoughts on “Wayne Rooney's Injury Makes it Chelsea's Title to Lose”

  1. That’s nonsense. United are not a one-man team. Infact, without Rooney, the other players will give 110% effort in the remaining games !

  2. thats just rubbish, with a defence like utd’s one goal with be enough to win this game, and berbatov actually works very hard, you obviously need to watch united more judging from this article

  3. Why do football writers overreact to everything. United and Arsenal are both still in the race, despite injuries. Chelsea will be glad that Essien is nearly back, but I doubt they will view a pairing of Berbatov and Giggs as a treat. Wayne has been in fine form, but other players will step up and score goals. I still think Chelsea are the favorites, but never underestimate the wild upredictability of this wonderful sport.

    1. Essien is not expected to be back until the last match of the season per Ancelotti’s press conference. May as well consider him out for the season.

  4. I just hope he’s not out too long and gets back in form for the world cup. I bet on the football every week and there really is no such thing as a banker – don’t rule united out of the race yet!

  5. cl689908, if you are to think that Berbatov has a high work-rate then you need to watch the games a little harder. I have never heard someone say that Berbatov is a hard worker, his skill is not in question, just his work rate.

    “with a defence like utd’s one goal with be enough to win this game”

    You mean that same defense that got torn apart by Bayern midweek? Yeah, I’m sure one goal will be plenty against a Chelsea side that have scored 12 in two matches.

    There is no doubt Man Utd are more than capable of winning, but it is my opinion that it will be a tough task without Rooney. Not a far-fetched notion.

    1. “You mean that same defense that got torn apart by Bayern midweek?”

      Or the defense that let in the fewest goals in the entire PL thus far?
      One game does not a team make. I’ll take a 32-game average over a single game any day.

      1. “Or the defense that let in the fewest goals in the entire PL thus far?”

        That defense hasn’t been facing Drogba, who only has two fewer goals than Rooney, even with a month off for the ACN.

  6. Its True manu will miss Rooney’s absence…I dont mind them loosing against Chelsea..But i would hope they win against Spurs,City anv villa…Which will make it easier for us(Liverpool)

  7. As you said: Stats lie.

    Berbatov has 12 goals because he was sacrificed for Rooney with the 451 tactic (just like Rooney with Ronaldo last year).

    Berba still has a formidable scoring record if you look at games started.

    Prediction: 1-1 tomorrow.

    1. Of his 21 goals, only 3 have come against sides that were above 8th in the table at the time they played each other, so that’s not saying much.

  8. without Rooney’s man u has still great chances of winning because of their defence is very strong with Rio there, if it get a chance to score it will be able to defend.

  9. I’m a Utd fan but no big fan of Berbatov….I feel its a bit harsh on Berbatov however….it’s the price tag that has ppl complaining…if he was like 10m or so I doubt there’ll be to much ruckus…if u watch the games he’s played in as a lone striker this season…he’s actually excelled…but no doubt that this is indeed his time to step up and prove his doubters wrong…rooney’s excellent form hasn’t really helped him either but he sure does have enough quality to win games for Utd…I still think its Utd’s title to lose and not Chelsea’s…

  10. It’ll be a tight game and I think Chelsea may very well edge it. Look at how many goals Drogba has scored this year, hes been sensational in every competition theyve been in.

    Rooney of course is in a different league his stats are freaking astounding in all competitions(not including the FA Cup of course lol). Their both good players but with Rooney out and Drogba in it gives Chelsea the goal scoring advantage.

    It’ll still be a tight game we all know that it’ll probably be a goal apart or maybe even finish 1-0 to either team but if Rooney was playing.. well this time last year when Ronaldo was on fire United destroyed Chelsea 3-0. With Rooney me prediction would have been 3-0 again, you just can’t stop the guy provided he gets the high balls from the wing of course.

    I’m going to predict 2-1 to Manchester United. I suspect its going to be an interesting game both Chelsea and United have injuries, both have players that have come back in the recent weeks and not put together a consistent run of games and both teams have been in imperious form at some times and in quite terrible form other times. The ideal situation would be that both teams rebound for this match, now that would be a match!

    1. “Rooney of course is in a different league…”

      Not to take anything away from Rooney but to say that Rooney is in a different league compared to Drogba is a bit unfair. Yes, Rooney is better overall and still growing as a player. But Drogba’s performance this season comes very close to Rooney. It is not just how many goals he scored. It is what goals he scored and how many times he was the difference in the match. Also, don’t underestimate the contribution of other Man U players in Rooney’s performance. Man U game plans are typically centered around him. On the other hand, Chelsea tactics are not as Drogba-centric. His success this season is more of a self-made story.

      1. “It is not just how many goals he scored. It is what goals he scored and how many times he was the difference in the match.”

        Excellent point. I agree that Rooney is having an outstanding season, and he’s exciting to the English press with the WC coming up. But, if I had to pick a striker for one do-or-die match, I’d go with Drogba.

  11. Chelsea definitely have injury problems at the back, there is no doubt. But the reason I say it is Chelsea’s title to lose is because I believe that they will win tomorrow. And the players have to believe that Rooney’s injury gives them the edge, and will fill them with more confidence that they can go to Old Trafford and get three points.

    1. Chelsea have 3 of the hardest away matches left… Man U, Tottenham and Liverpool. To get 9 points from 9 will be very difficult.

  12. all i had to do was read the first line then i stopped. surely, this piece of crap was written by some scouse scum or chelsea bully-boy. at the bridge earlier this season, chelski needed help from the ref to win a match that we dominated.

    Manchester United are not a one man team. you only have to look at the score of last week’s bolton game when Wazza was rested and we won 4-0. We have fought thru injuries all season, and are still on top. we played several games without any real defenders, starting midfielders in their positions. we can overcome this injury. BELIEVE.

    feed the scousers, let them know it’s christmas time.

  13. “and are still on top”

    United are on top because Chelsea choked away two points a couple weeks ago. Until then, they’d spent weeks breathing the Blues’ exhaust.

    You sound like you’re trying to convince yourself…

  14. Why does it matter they lost the world cup if you IDIOTS were watching it you would know. Now he has another CHANCE TO WIN IT. Anyways he is still a very good player.

  15. It´s a shame that Wayne Rooney can´t play but I think the football doesn´t depend just of one man, I know that Wayne Rooney is a real good player and Scorer, but I think that many people doesn´t believe in the Manchester team in spite of ausence of Way Rooney.
    Football is teamwork and that makes an interesting game.
    The people has to believe in his team and the players has to believe in themselves.
    I believe in Manchester´s team and I think they can do it.

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