Sir Alex Ferguson’s autobiography recently revealed that Wayne Rooney, much to the Scotsman’s annoyance, told him he should have signed Mesut Ozil. “It was none of his business who we should have gone for,” wrote Ferguson.
On top of that, current Manchester United manager David Moyes admitted yesterday that he could have signed Ozil before Arsenal did. “We didn’t need that position at the time. I didn’t even say it was an interest, it was put to us and it was just something at the time we didn’t need,” said Moyes. “We we had Shinji Kagawa and Wayne Rooney and people of a similar ilk so it wasn’t quite what we required at that time. We were looking at different positions.”
Rooney, who played most of the 2009/10 season as a lone striker, felt that he lacked creative support in the final third and a specialist no. 10 – and quite a good one too – like Ozil could provide him that. Ferguson, on the contrary, was planning to convert Rooney into that missing no. 10, not as creative as Ozil, but good enough to link attack and midfield and still able to provide a second striking option. Ferguson was the manager, so his decision stood. Instead of Ozil the playmaker, Javier Hernandez the poacher was snapped up and Rooney was converted to a ‘second striker’.
Three years have passed since then. United’s squad has changed, their coaching staff has changed, even their manager has changed. But the formation remains the same. United still play two forwards up front, one deeper than the other. Rooney’s importance in that no. 10 role might have lessened towards the end of last season, but Ferguson’s final Premier League title was largely engineered by the performances of both van Persie and Rooney, who were often played together. David Moyes must have felt that that continuing with that successful blueprint would be the right way to go.
And then there is Shinji Kagawa who, when signed in the summer of 2012, was believed to herald a new tactical era at Old Trafford. The sense was that Ferguson would finally break away from his philosophy of playing two strikers up front, fielding Kagawa, a proper playmaker, behind Rooney. It is true, however, that following the loss of Park Ji-Sung (who left United in the same window), some suggested that the signing of the Japan international was simply an effort to continue carrying favor in the lucrative market of Asia. But this opinion was quickly rebuffed by most who argued that Kagawa, who, having racked up 17 goals and 10 assists in a historic double-winning season at Dortmund, was bought for “footballing reasons”.