By Mark James
Before I begin to break my own heart and plot the downfall of two of the greatest players to ever wear the Manchester United shirt, this past weekend showed why it is time to develop a new midfield system and say goodbye to the likes of Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs.
They both made brief cameos in the 3-0 victory at Newcastle’s Sports Direct Arena, it was without doubt the determination, strength, vision, guile and sheer brilliance of Wayne Rooney that demonstrated what has been missing from the heart of our team: a box to box midfielder.
I could spend the rest of my life watching Paul Scholes drop the ball on a flea’s left toe or dream endlessly of the ankle breaking trickery of the finest number 11 to ever grace the Old Trafford pitch, but we all know that we must move on; the fans know it, the players know it and more importantly, Sir Alex Ferguson knows it.
Giggs enjoyed a shift to a more central midfield role a few seasons ago, it now seems that the legs have gone, and he is far from a player lacking in experience, one could argue that he is unable to make use of it in the way the likes of Teddy Sheringham did. He will without doubt continue to be an inspiration in the dressing room, but on the pitch, his head down runs through the centre of the park are becoming a liability we cannot afford.
So, having picked apart one of my heroes, let’s move onto the next…
Paul Scholes plays his role better than any other player in the world. While many argue that he is simply allowed the space to do it, there is no doubt that it is his movement and awareness that constantly allows him the room to produce the seemingly impossible. Although this is a pure joy to watch, you have to ask what it adds to the Manchester United midfield and whether it really functions appropriately within the system Sir Alex is trying to build.
Take Sundays’ game as a case in point; without Scholes in the team, we operated a mobile and attacking midfield and the constant movement and motion of the ball was simply too much for Newcastle to handle. Shy of wingers, the compact system allowed us to play a Barcelona-esque style of game and limited the strength of Cheik Tiote, potentially limiting their breakup play and allowing us to get at the Newcastle defence with far greater impetus. With Paul Scholes in the team, the pace would have been slowed and, aware of his ability to spread the ball, the play would have become stretched, allowing Newcastle to break up play and chase down the ball with greater ease.
Of course, that’s not to say that the weekend didn’t produce problems. Alan Pardew’s tactical awareness saw a tighter midfield line formed and quickly, United’s movement was limited; but by that point the score line was already firmly in our favour and, unlike previous league games this season, we had the answer to Newcastle’s attacking guile, and this is where Wayne Rooney showed his talents and the reasons he will develop into one of the finest midfield players of his generation.
Leaving the pitch, Wayne was keen to point out the defensive frailties which have dogged the Red Devils since the opening game of the season, but also noted one significant factor; it was the team as a whole who were to blame. Thankfully, Wayne Rooney showed everyone how to protect the back four and turn it into an attacking outlet. Quite simply, this was his role at Mike Ashley’s magical money-making stadium.
Wayne Rooney may not have the insurgent bursts of Yaya Toure or the dominant strength of Tottenham’s Moussa Dembele, who many felt should have been joining Van Persie as one of our marquee summer signings, but he certainly has those aspects to his game. Add to that the ability to score 20 plus goals a season and the passing vision (if not always the execution) of our beloved ginger prince and it isn’t hard to understand exactly why the England man sees himself as a future midfield general.
Previous seasons would have seen us suffer heavily from using Rooney in such a manner. But there is no doubt that the signing of RVP has galvanised our attacking line with a player who has a proven track-record of goal scoring in the Premier league.
Currently, many will argue that centre forward remains Rooney’s best position. But, with just one league game as the spearhead of our midfield, it is easy to see how we may already be experiencing the emergence of a new, and arguably better, Wayne Rooney.
About the Author
Mark James attended his first Manchester United game in the mid 80s. He has been a regular visitor to Old Trafford for more than two decades and has developed a passion for sports writing since leaving University with an Honours Degree in Media Studies. As a dedicated writer, Mark has been published in UN sponsored business magazines on behalf of International Tourist Boards, dramatically boosted the online present of e-commerce companies around the world and continues to share his love of Manchester United with blogging communities across the internet. Available via a number of freelancer hire sites, Mark can be contacted through his leading online profile available here..