When Wayne Rooney expressed his desire to leave Manchester United in October due to a perceived lack of ambition at the club, the forward came under immense pressure. But judging by his team’s performance this past Saturday in the Champions League Final, maybe he was right after all?
Against Barcelona, Rooney was one of the few players wearing a white shirt who seemed comfortable with the ball at his feet. His hunger for wanting the ball delivered to him was clearly evident. And you could see by the way he was playing that his frustration levels were increasing as wayward passes failed to reach him, or he had to try to control passes that came at him near his head instead of to his feet.
The gap in talent between Rooney and his teammates was on display Saturday night at Wembley. At times during the 90 minutes, I felt sorry for the lad. There he was trying to change nothing into something, but he couldn’t do it alone and his teammates really let him down.
And now that Paul Scholes has announced his retirement from Manchester United with immediate effect, Manchester United has a lot of soul searching it needs to do to find an adequate replacement.
The feeling I got after watching Barcelona defeat Manchester United was similar to the one after witnessing Germany thrash England in the 2010 World Cup. One of deep disappointment. How in this day in age are foreign teams so far more advanced than England and Manchester United? The gulf in talent was immense. Both Barcelona and Germany were far more comfortable with the ball at their feet, running circles around the opposition. England and Manchester United appeared one-dimensional, with little confidence and most criminally of all, lacking ideas and creativity on the football pitch.
But if you look at Manchester United’s starting line-up against Barcelona from Saturday, only three of players are English (Rooney, Ferdinand and Carrick). The other players represent (or have represented) their countries at national level including Holland, Brazil, Portugal, Mexico, Serbia, France and other countries. These are national sides that are obviously not lacking in the skill or self confidence department (other than France, but that’s a entirely different story), so you would expect them to have the talent to be more comfortable with the ball.
On Saturday, Manchester United’s inability to keep possession of the ball was, I believe, a combination of their players feeling overawed by Barcelona and, more importantly, United lacking the creative midfielders to keep a hold of the ball and do something with it. The Red Devils are sorely missing that type of player. In the Premier League, they could paper over the cracks, but playing like that in the Champions League makes the gaping hole look more prominent. Finding those players will be a difficult task for Manchester United. If they have any hope of lifting another Champions League Trophy, they’ll probably need to beat Barcelona in their path again. And based on the gulf in skill between both clubs, Manchester United has a long way to go before they’re ready to battle Barcelona once again.