Ever since the news broke there was a palpable sense of disbelief amongst fans, the media and Blogs. We awaited hearing from the men at the centre of the story and we got that hearing today. It appears that Sir Alex Ferguson is as shaken by this news as we are even though he has had since mid-August to digest this news. Regardless Manchester United are counting the cost of having a Rooney sized hole in their plans, so far this season Rooney has been largely anonymous and certainly not the player we had become used to seeing.
Come January if the issue has not been resolved (it appears that the statement today was the attempt by Manchester United to put the ball firmly in Rooney’s court) United will need to cash in on their damaged goods. The figures bandied about are between 5-50 million depending on the level of interest and the parties involved. In my view it will probably be a trip to Madrid or across Manchester in the region of 30 million pounds, though the possibility of a ‘Webster’ transfer remains. Should a transfer take place, the Manchester club will need to reinvest to maintain their status as an elite European team; I lay out below 6 options to replace the irreplaceable.
The Replacements: The European stars who just might be available.
Karim Benzema: A name that has not been far from United in gossip columns. It is no secret that the Frenchman is not happy with his current role in Madrid and speculation is rife that Mourinho is unhappy with his attitude. A powerful second striker in the same mould as Rooney both his youth (he has two years on Wayne) and potential would make him the obvious solution to the Rooney problem.
That is, of course, that his off-the-field issues are resolved, Benzema is currently implicated in the same scandal as Franck Ribery as they both are investigated in unseemly circumstances by the french police. Benzema has also not exhibited the form he had shown in France since leaving so if he were to be a direct replacement it is still far from ideal.
Edin Džeko: The Bosnian striker has been the talk of Europe over the summer as doomed attempts were made to try to prise him from Wolfsburg. However since their indifferent start to the German league campaign the Wolves just may be tempted into accepting United’s money. A tall, powerful striker Džeko has been scoring a ton in Germany. At 24 and with form on his side he could provide the firepower that Rooney has been lacking.
The problem though is that United already have an out-and-out striker currently in form. Dimitar Berbatov has performed well in an otherwise under-performing team. With their captain unavailable and their left-back AWOL. United have suffered, signing another player to literally step on Berbatov’s toes does not fit into any system that United currently employ. Džeko is good, possibly great but not a fit for Manchester.
Luis Suarez: The Uruguayan hero/villain was one of the stories of the World Cup, not just because of his volleyball impression. Suarez showed how effective he could be, crafty (not in that way) he scores goals by moving into the channels and finishing with aplomb. However he provides extra value in his leadership (he is the current Ajax captain) and shows a maturity beyond his 23 years. Ajax have been a selling club for at least a decade now and United could use a friendly move for Suarez to set up a less than friendly move for their goalkeeper in the summer.
The issue with Suarez though is the fear of trusting the goalscoring record from Holland. Of the top scorers in dutch football who have since moved to England only one has succeeded as a goal-scorer – Ruud Van Nistelrooy, if United’s scouts can pick the wheat from the chaff (here’s looking at you Kuyt, Kezman and especially Alves) it could be an excellent pick-up.
The Future: Replacing Rooney with youth.
Sergio ‘Kun’ Aguero: Maradona’s son in law has been on the scene for a while now.Starting at an impossibly young age at Independiente (15 years and 37 days) he has scored regularly for his club(s) and his country. At 22 he is the same age as Benzema but is not held in the same regard as his game is not as complete as that of the Frenchman. An electrifying player Aguero has been on the radar of most of the European big hitters for a few seasons but has yet to be swayed to a new club. Seemingly happy at Atletico he enjoys a starting role and Champions League football already. Aguero would probably not be available for the same money that United will recoup from Rooney.
Neymar: The 18 year old Brazilian sensation was tipped for a move to Chelsea at the end of the transfer window though nothing was agreed. At 18 he would certainly have a long future ahead of him and his talent is obvious. A tricky winger/second striker with the happy knack of scoring goals Neymar is the latest hot prospect from the football factory called Brazil. Currently with Santos he would not cost as much as Aguero would. The issue though is that of Mentality. In signing a precocious talent from Brazil you take a significant risk especially if not to a Latin country. For every Ronaldinho and Pato there is a Denilson or Adriano (the fat Roma one), signing Neymar would be a very expensive gamble and given his lack of experiance of Europe he doesn’t carry the tag of ‘world-class’ just yet.
The Stop-Gap: If the money is not spent in whole it could be spent on this player.
Mirko Vucinic: There is no doubting the Montenegran’s caliber, we were denied the opportunity to see him in full flow at Wembley but when he is he can be devastating. At 27 he is significantly older than the players above but as Roma grapple with ownership issues and a start that just saw them beaten, at home, by Basel he may just be available to the European elite. A winger by trade he would not directly replace Rooney but his strength, guile and technique would fit well into the United system. I imagine that a relationship could be formed with Berbatov but it would hardly set the fans hearts racing to see him gather the ball. More functional than explosive Vucinic is indeed a very good player bordering on great but he wouldn’t capture the imagination as the White Pélé would.
Finally on a personal note, if you enjoy my writing which has included the articles hotlinked to these words and you have the disposable time then could you vote for me on part 5 at the Not 100% Football Blogger Awards. You can also follow me @kipp9 on twitter.