“I tried to break up the play, but I just misjudged it” – Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney has apologised to his Manchester United team-mates over the weekend, admitting, ‘It was probably the right decision’. However, does his dismissal highlight just how vulnerable United’s defence is and how little trust there is from the players further down the field?
There was speculation on social media that Wayne Rooney was concerned that the United defence would not be able to stop Stewart Downing and West Ham, had he not committed the foul. It’s a fair theory of course, United have looked rugged at the back and were slightly fortunate to take all three points in the game against West Ham. Kevin Nolan appeared onside when he struck late on, except for the upper part of his body, which strayed offside and in turn may have swayed the linesman’s decision to raise his flag, as Nolan poked the ball in to an empty net.
Rooney’s dismissal could deflate team morale and therefore affect how many points they pick up over the next three games. Everton (H), West Brom (A) and then Chelsea (H) are the opponents that the Red Devils’ will have to face without Rooney. None of those games look relatively comfortable, even without their captain in the side.
So who does manager Louis Van Gaal bring in to fill the gap left by Rooney? The first player who comes to mind, and who will probably be happy to get off the bench, is Juan Mata.
His absence from the first team shows just how much strength United have up front and the Spaniard, despite surely feeling annoyed by the lack of action, will be content with the fact he has been replaced by the likes of Angel Di Maria, Ander Herrera and Wayne Rooney – all players of the highest quality.
However, with Rooney gone for the next three games, Mata will feel that this is his chance to give Louis van Gaal a selection headache and show him why he should be the first name on the team sheet each week.
Another United player who seemed to have disappeared this season is Adnan Januzaj. The 19-year-old Belgian International will feel a little aggrieved that, despite shining last season, he is yet to start a league game for United this time round. Despite being a wide man, Januzaj can also play in a central-attacking role and he will be desperate to impress Van Gaal, particularly so after a summer of rumoured loan moves to Italy and Germany, as the likes of Di Maria and Herrera made their way to Old Trafford.
Going back to the back-line, another 19-year-old looking to become the next big United player is Irishman Paddy McNair, who got his first chance on Saturday. The teenager, who has been tipped to become a star centre-back, didn’t suffer any major faults on his debut, making some impressive clearances and interceptions that will have done his chances of selection no harm.
However, a back-four of Rafael, McNair, Rojo and Shaw doesn’t exactly seem ‘world-class’. Not to criticise the four of them, particularly McNair, but it’s simply evident that United still need to sign a world-class centre-back, particularly so following the departure of Nemanja Vidic, who departed for Inter Milan. The amount of goals that United have conceded so far proves that.
Man United are still yet to impress overall. Their defence will have any opposition licking their lips, yet any teams’ defence will be frightful of such a strong attacking line-up, even without Wayne Rooney. It might still be early days, but the next three fixtures for the Red Devils are crucial, both for the players and Louis van Gaal.
Rooney’s absence creates a sense of opportunity and will allow the Dutchman to take a look at the other option he has at his disposal, and whether they can play a big role throughout the season.
It’s clear the club and the fans are desperate for some consistency and a victory at home to Everton on Sunday will provide some much-needed relief following the win on Saturday.
Finally, our thoughts here at RetainPossession go to an unnamed United fan who sadly passed away while at the game over the weekend. Our thoughts are with their family.