United need the striker’s goals ... but so do England
IF ALEX FERGUSON had been told last season that he could keep only one of Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, it would have been an impossible call for the Manchester United manager.
Ronaldo ultimately chose to leave Manchester United for Real Madrid of his own accord, but I’m not sure that Ferguson would have willingly sacrificed Rooney in order to keep Ronaldo anyway.
With Ronaldo out of the picture, United are categorically not a better team.
But when it comes to Rooney, he has unquestionably become a better player because Ronaldo is no longer playing alongside him.
That is great news for United, but the flip side for Fabio Capello and England is that it increases the danger that Rooney will go to the World Cup at risk of burnout.
As his four goals against Hull City last Saturday highlighted, Wayne has taken his game to another level this season.
He has become a more prolific goalscorer and his ability to find space, which has always been exceptional, has gone up another notch.
In the absence of Ronaldo, he has had to totally shoulder the burden of expectancy at United, but he has stepped up to the plate and done magnificently. The responsibility has inspired him and he has kicked on.
But that is the root of the problem for England. Rooney is now so important to United that you simply cannot see Ferguson doing without him between now and the end of the season.
He suggested resting him for the Hull game, but he chose not to and Rooney scored four goals. If you can’t rest him for a game at home to Hull, then he won’t be left out when all of the big Premier League and Champions League games come around.
Ferguson has to play him in every game because, without Rooney, United are more than capable of producing another average performance that could lead to another defeat.
Take him out of the United team or the England side and it would leave a massive gap which nobody could fill.
United would not be in the position they are currently in at the top of the league without Rooney. The damage to their ambitions this season would be unthinkable should Wayne miss games through injury.
The fact that United are not playing particularly well this season is another worry for Capello because you can see in Rooney’s face that the frustration only makes him try even harder.
He ends up chasing back 60 yards to retrieve the ball and his workrate goes through the roof but, even though he’s still only 24, he has to be careful. He would not be the first player to go to a major tournament suffering from burnout.
If you get to May and find yourself mentally tired, you can forget it because you just cannot recover from being mentally fatigued.
But there is no way that Ferguson will start to think, “I need to give Wayne a rest because the World Cup is only six weeks away,” while United are pushing for trophies in the final weeks of the season.
The only thing that Ferguson and Capello share is the heavy reliance of their teams on Rooney’s talents.
Any chance that England might have of winning the World Cup this summer will be gone if Rooney misses out on South Africa or if he goes there feeling the effects of his exertions with United.
Earlier this season, I suggested that Fernando Torres was the most important player in the Premier League and then, after Didier Drogba decimated Arsenal, it looked as though his value to Chelsea was greater than that of any other player in the country.
But when you consider Rooney’s performances for United and the goals that he has scored, in what is a team that has struggled for form for much of the season, then you have to concede that he has surpassed Torres and Drogba in terms of how his performances influence the fortunes of his team.
Ironically, Rooney’s display against Hull came alongside Michael Owen, who has struggled for g at United this season.
The question marks ability to still cut it for E go away until he gets t games, but Owen and Ro a perfect combination f the past.