Sunday, April 11, 2010

Wayne Rooney Gamble Has Cost Alex Ferguson and Manchester United the EPL Title

Barely four days since Manchester United exited from the Champions League, and the Wayne Rooney gamble has come back to haunt Sir Alex Ferguson and the Red Devils.

Dropped points to Blackburn Rovers courtesy of a 0-0 draw at Ewood Park have left United needing snookers as they search for that elusive fourth title in a row.

On Wednesday, Sir Alex Ferguson snubbed Dimitar Berbatov not once but twice, first by playing an obviously injured Wayne Rooney ahead of him and then by moving Nani up front when the English international hobbled off. The Bulgarian got to make a cameo appearance with 10 minutes to go after Bayern had snatched the lead on the away goals rule.

It was thoroughly ironic that the wily Scot had to turn to his £31 million signing and ask him to keep Manchester United in the title race against Blackburn.

It is therefore hardly surprising that it did not happen.

During his two years as Manchester United's No. 9, his form has swung from indifferent to inconsistent. His 26 goals in 82 appearances might be a bad return for a centre forward at another club, but at United it verges on meaningless.

Surrounded by the likes of Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez, Antonio Valencia, and Paul Scholes, Manchester United have been one of the most creative teams on the planet during Berbatov's time and his contribution has been negligible when compared to that of his teammates.

The main problem surrounding Berbatov, and it probably explains why Ferguson signed him, is that people compare him to Eric Cantona.

While the enigmatic Frenchman was a formidable character both in and out of the dressing room and had a big game mentality as far as the Premiership was concerned, Berbatov has allowed the pressure and expectation of playing for a club like United shrink his character. At times he looks like a lost child at Old Trafford.

In the Champions League, Alex Ferguson had a chance to redress this situation. All he had to do was take Berbatov aside, tell him that the season rested on his shoulders and that he was going to lead the team for the next four games.

Basically boost his confidence, build the team around the classy striker, play to his best attributes, instead of Rooney's, while he was out injured.

Instead Ferguson chose to humiliate Berbatov.

A one-legged Wayne Rooney was considered better than the fully fit Bulgarian.

However, it is very hard to have any kind of sympathy for Berbatov.

Whilst wearing the No. 9 jersey he has been poor, failing to live up to expectations, and Ferguson’s overreaction towards him on Wednesday is a result of the player not giving his all for United.

Ferguson’s stance can be completely understood as far as Berbatov is concerned. He deserved to find himself on the bench, but only if Wayne Rooney was fully fit. By leaving the Bulgarian in the dug out, Ferguson has bitten his own nose off despite his face, and then he has the gall to turn to Berbatov against Blackburn!

It was a must win game against Sam Allardyce’s team. Anything less than a win and United’s chances of winning the league would be all but extinguished.

In short, Fergie gambled United’s entire season on Wayne Rooney’s damaged ankle, when he could have gambled it on Berbatov.

Knowing he is not rated or wanted by Alex Ferguson, Dimitar Berbatov spent the afternoon strolling through the game, a self-fulfilling prophecy in person. Waving his arms in angst at wayward passes by teammates and not helping them when they needed it most.

With eight minutes to go the ball dropped kindly for him on the right hand side of the D. He teed it up nicely, but his wayward shot drifted high and wide of the left hand post.

Along with his career at Old Trafford and United’s title dreams.