Saturday, April 9, 2011

Why Wayne Rooney's suspension could be a blessing in disguise for treble-chasing Manchester United

Manchester United - Wayne Rooney
When Wayne Rooney slotted home the only goal of the game on Tuesday night at Chelsea there were a few seconds as he galloped towards a pitch-side TV camera where no-one quite knew what he would do. Would he try to make up for Saturday's foul-mouthed rant and kiss the camera Mark Noble style? Would he unleash another torrent of abuse towards the world's audience? In the end he went for a funny little tumble onto the floor and ignored the camera. Probably a wise move.

But the repercussions of his bizarre outburst after notching his hat-trick at Upton Park last weekend have already befallen the much-maligned Manchester United star, with the FA slapping a two-game ban on Rooney, meaning he will miss his club's league clash with Fulham as well as the FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City.

"I'm gutted to miss the semi-final," said Rooney on Thursday and his side will certainly miss him for the clash at Wembley, after he has smashed home four goals in his last two games; goals that secured a precious win at West Ham and gave his team an away goal at Stamford Bridge in the Champions League.  But it may not as bad as first thought. While Rooney will have to sit out the visit of Fulham and the Wembley semi against rivals City (while no doubt muttering more curse words under his breath in frustration) it means he will be fresh and ready for the return leg against Chelsea and be raring to get back to the form of his last few games. There then follows a trip to Newcastle where United - and Rooney - have traditionally prospered. 

 Rewind to last season when United's campaign fell apart in the space of a few short weeks as defeats to Chelsea and Bayern Munich saw the Premier League and Champions League drift out of sight. Rooney had already begun to run out of steam before a twisted ankle picked up in Germany effectively ended his campaign and precluded a terrible few weeks in South Africa as England flopped at the World Cup. A season that had seen 35 goals dried up on the spot.

And it really took until January for the injury hangover to dissipate for Rooney, who has since embarked on the sort of goalscoring run that we have all come to know and love from the bullish No. 10. So, perhaps a lay-off and a return before his club's most-important run in yet is just what the doctor ordered.

Not only that, United also have Rio Ferdinand finally back in action after what seems like an eternity on the sidelines. The centre-back was instrumental in keeping the Chelsea forwards quiet on Tuesday evening at Stamford Bridge and his return could finally lend some stability to a defence that has had more new faces than Michael Jackson. And with Dimitar Berbatov keen to prove himself to Sir Alex Ferguson and earn that new contract extension he so desperately wants, United's team has the desire and hunger that's needed to wrap up at least one of the three trophies they are still in the hunt for.
If United get past the Blues they will more than likely face Schalke in the Champions League semi-final, a game they'll be expected to win at a canter, thus bringing them almost certainly up against Barcelona in the final - a repeat of the 2009 final. Rooney struggled to make an impact in that game as Lionel Messi stole the show. This year could be the perfect chance for Wayne to prove - after last year's public capitulation - that he is a contender for the best in the world.

So, put your feet up Wayne, and enjoy a few days rest. Don't get too angry about missing the semi-final because when you return your team-mates are going to need you to carry on that fine form that has seen 2011 already become something of a Wayne's World.