Occasionally a player will rely upon another player so much that they’re less than half the player they could be without said player who compliments them so well. If you’re confused by that word amalgam, don’t be. Just make sure you watch Manchester United’s next match on Monday at home against Arsenal and pay special attention to the brew that has become United’s forward two.
In Tuesday’s 1-1 draw v Spanish side Valencia, Berbatov had the kind of night he may wish to soon forget, but it wasn’t because of a lack of service from those around him, specifically Rooney. Although he didn’t score and United failed to win, time after time, Rooney set up his Bulgarian teammate with inch perfect balls, flicks and passes into space as United first looked to draw level and then advanced looking for the winner in their last Champions League group stage match.
None will forget Berbatov’s five-goal performance from just two weeks ago, but just how many football fans noticed how heavily Rooney was involved in the build up? It was a masterclass from Berbatov in finishing but one could argue it was equally as fine of a performance from Rooney in the skill of passing and play-making – United’s Tuesday performance was similar in fashion without producing the same number of goals.
While many United fans will say that the Red Devils are far from their best, their ability to create decent chances against quality opposition such as Valencia at least witnesses them moving in the right direction. Since Rooney’s return and his easing back into Premier League and European football, the England striker has appeared in three full matches and as a late substitute in United’s 2-0 win v Wigan.
In those appearances, Rooney has found the net only once through a penalty in the Champions League yet his service has been borderline sensational. On Tuesday, United set up 4-4-2 which played out more as a 4-4-1-1 as Rooney dropped deeper into the space behind Berbatov who was highest up the pitch. Rooney’s link play coupled with the width that Nani on the left flank and United’s two Brazilian fullbacks (brothers Rafael and Fabio) were able to provide, witnessed the home side create viable chances that eventually provided United with the result they so desired.
Credit must go to Rooney who obviously wishes to score from open play but continues to carry extra weight until United secure a better creative central midfielder than Michael Carrick. Paul Scholes is a legend but will soon retire, Anderson is more of a work-horse and Darren Fletcher is a brilliant footballer begging to be paired with a player the likes of Xabi Alonso or Wesley Sneijder.
Until a player of that caliber steps up or until United splash the kind of cash no one is even sure they have, look for Rooney to remain the linchpin of United’s attack, regardless of if he scores or not.