So Wayne Rooney is back from his seven-star escapades in Dubai, and watched his side’s comfortable, if at times farcical, win over Spurs. Reportedly out for a further five weeks, Rooney would have been forgiven for watching Javier Hernandez more closely than any other red-shirted player.
Economically it seems that Rooney has come out of this situation very well indeed, if smelling much less than sweet. One day he was offered around £100,000 per week, the next day he announced that United had not enough ambition for him, and therefore would seek pastures new, presumably after advice from his agent Paul Stretford.
And two days later there was reportedly an offer of £200,000 on the table. However, the little Mexican striker is the only spanner in the works to this monetary victory.
This season, Hernandez has been the antidote to Rooney. Compare six goals this season with one goal in seven months for his club. Compare an effervescent delight on the field to the sluggish first touches of a man out of form. And compare “It’s an unbelievable opportunity for me to play with the biggest team in the world, Manchester United” with “I met with David Gill last week and he did not give me any of the assurances I was seeking about the future squad. I then told him that I would not be signing a new contract.”
Whether or not all is well between Sir Alex Ferguson and Rooney, no-one has ever been bigger than the club during Fergie’s reign. Wayne has threatened this balance recently, and he has done so whilst horribly out of form. One of the most interesting things to come from Saturday’s game (aside from Mark Clattenburg’s mindf**k) were the post-match comments from the United manager:
We had a feeling he would break through and, therefore, it gives you a [selection] problem, but the right kind of problem. It will be difficult [leaving Hernández out]. I’m not even suggesting he will be left out.
When United brought off a striker after an hour, it was Berbatov and not Hernandez that was removed. In a matter of three weeks, the Mexican has become the main man in the Old Trafford forward line. For Rooney, he was forced to watch his team mate playing with exactly the zeal and verve that has been missing from his own performances.
Forgive me for kneejerk reaction, therefore, but the Little Pea now surely becomes United’s most crucial player this season?
If he continues his form, then Ferguson would be foolish to drop him, and Ferguson is not a foolish man. Wayne Rooney would then struggle to gain a starting place in a side in which he was once the star. And after his will-he-won’t-he antics, the Old Trafford faithful would not necessarily be banging on the manager’s door pleading the England striker’s case.
But after the signing of the new deal, United hold all of Rooney’s cards. Whereas 10 days ago he would have fetched something in the region of £20million, the club could now hope to treble that fee. Sir Alex has already announced that he will not be looking to open his chequebook significantly, but if Rooney was sold in the summer it would give the club the ability to bolster key positions. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Maarten Stekelenberg are merely two examples of desirable targets.
If Hernandez goes off the boil, and it is easy to forget that his league goals have only come against Wolves, Stoke and West Brom, Rooney then has the edge over United. One would suspect the striker would return when fit, with an opportunity to regain some of the form that propelled him onto the world stage. We are not in Alan Smith territory yet (dropping into midfield due to a chronic lack of goals) but the drought is more than concerning.
Rooney’s new deal certainly seems to put United in an almost win-win scenario. Rooney’s success is directly proportional to that of his club: when Rooney scores, United generally win. If Rooney does regain his form, the likelihood is that he will remain at the club. He is a world-class performer. Conversely, if Rooney remains in the stagnant rut in which he currently finds himself, he may go, at which point the new contract merely acts as a value enhancer upon Rooney’s head.
What the emergence of this Mexican sensation does is bolster Fergie’s armoury. Whereas some may have doubted the great man after recent United away performances, Hernandez’s performances highlight the Scot’s propensity to pull a rabbit out of the hat. He did it with Vidic, he did it with Ronaldo, and he has done it with Hernandez.
Keep performing as he is, and Chicharito may cause an additional headache to the selection problem for his manager: Wayne Rooney may have some serious thinking to do.