How would Manchester United replace Rooney?

Robert Lewandowski playing for Poland, with József Varga and Vilmos Vanczák

Since Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney handed in a contract request at Old Trafford back in May, the 27-year-old has been the talk of the town with Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal, and now Chelsea making their interest known.

United manager David Moyes has stated categorically on two occasions that the Englishman is not for sale. However, with his contract creeping dangerously towards expiring (in less than two years time) and the player himself seeming open to a move away from the Red Devils, United may have to start looking for a replacement.

In all fairness, Rooney isn’t the same player (in the same form and fitness) as he was when he arrived in 2004, almost a decade ago, from Moyes’ former club Everton where he was trained and developed as a boy.

For starters, he was operating in a much deeper position behind Robin van Persie as either a supporting second striker or as an attacking midfielder or, deeper still, as a substitute on the bench.

Rooney scored just 12 league goals for United last term across 27 appearances – a substantial drop from his previous campaign of 27 goals in 34 appearances in 2011/12 and 26 goals in 32 back in 2009/10.

He’s won the PFA Player of the Year award in 2009/10 and the FWA Footballer of the Year award the same term as well as the Golden Boot but he was a long way off the form and fitness of Robin van Persie this term who has won the Premier League Golden Boot for two seasons running now.

Even in his prime, Rooney wasn’t the highest scorer in the league – in 2009/10 Rooney picked up almost all the accolades and acclaim but Chelsea’s Didier Drogba scored the most goals that term. In fact, even the season before Van Persie arrived at Old Trafford, Rooney was still in the shadow of another – namely Dimitar Berbatov who picked up the Golden Boot in 2011/12 (joint with Carlos Tevez).

In Rooney’s near-decade at United, he has never been the highest goalscorer in the league and in fact three of his teammates have eclipsed him in terms of goal tallies (including Cristiano Ronaldo on 2007/08).

What United really need, if they do find themselves browsing the market for a replacement for Rooney, is another potential Golden Boot winner – if they want to ensure they reclaim the title this term, David Moyes is going to have to recruit another 20-goals a season striker to challenge Van Persie and, to a lesser extent, Javier Hernandez.

Considering the top scorers in Europe are all tied up already – Lionel Messi and Ronaldo aren’t going anywhere, Edinson Cavani has signed for PSG, Radamel Falcao for AS Monaco, and Alvaro Negredo for City – United are left with two options to replace Rooney. Robert Lewandowski or Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The latter would likely be the easier to tempt, given that Cavani’s arrival in the French capital makes his status a little less stable and Borussia Dortmund have insisted Lewandowski will not be sold.

Ibrahimovic scored an incredible 30 goals in 34 appearances in Ligue 1 last term, he scored 28 in 32 for AC Milan the season before – he’s been the Serie A top scorer and the Ligue 1 top scorer and, frankly, his CV speaks for itself. But really, can we see it happening? It's doubtful, in fact we'd bet on it not happening at any cost such is United's way in the market.

But with the £90 million worth of talent City have already brought in (and we’re less than a month in to the transfer window) United are going to need to do more next term than they had to last term. Under the new manager, the landscape of the league has changed almost beyond recognition at the top and United are going to need genuine ‘cover’ for Van Persie. If they sold Rooney they would have to think big.

David Moyes stated last week that he considered Rooney as just that – ‘cover’ – but he’s nowhere near, in my estimation and, if he wants to go to Chelsea or wherever else, Moyes and United should let him go – and they should replace him with a genuine world-class striker who can not only ‘cover’ but compete with Van Persie.

image: © Roger Gorączniak

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