Early Doors

Will Rooney ban affect United?

Early Doors

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Not so long ago, Wayne Rooney was dismissed in some quarters as finished, his career over.

Many were quick to write off the striker as a spent force at around the time he was turning 25 as he was bogged down by injury, an abysmal World Cup and tabloid revelations that made him as much a fixture on Mock The Week as Match Of The Day.

Incidentally, the call girl at the centre of that story has popped up on the cover of a lad's mag this week. Her search for fame and glory may have put her on the front page of every red top when she sold her story last year, but her billing as 'The Rooney Girl' on the cover of Zoo, rather than her actual name, sums up just how no one ever really cared about her in this story.

Manchester United's relenting to his contract demands in October was viewed as one of the biggest mistakes of Alex Ferguson's career, and the public outcry at his hugely-hiked wages was encapsulated by the 19-foot effigy of him set ablaze in a Kent village for Bonfire Night.

Still, since putting that terrible year behind him, Rooney has gradually worked his way back into great form, at just the right time to put United in the box seat as the title race hurtles towards the finish line.

This week, in case you hadn't noticed, Rooney has been thrust right back into the public consciousness for something other than his football following his profane breaking of the fourth wall last weekend after sealing his hat-trick at West Ham.

The FA has now banned Rooney for two games - tomorrow's home league meeting with Fulham and next Saturday's FA Cup semi-final against rivals Manchester City - and everyone has got something to say on the matter.

For his part, Rooney believes he has been victimised by the FA: "I am not the first player to have sworn on TV and I won't be the last.

"Unlike others who have been caught swearing on camera, I apologised immediately. And yet I am the only person banned for swearing. That doesn't seem right."

True, Wayne, but how many other players let fly with the swears right down the lens of the camera?

Rio Ferdinand has led the defence of his United team-mate, claiming that because he is one of the league's best players he should be given an easy ride.

The former England captain said: "His performance against Chelsea shows you what sort of talent he is as a footballer. It's something this country should cherish. Unbelievable.

"I'm sure there is some support for him but there's more against him. More people want to string him up."

And, given the nature of Rooney's outburst was that of something you hope to avoid experiencing in a kebab shop at 3am, it seems only fitting that a policeman should weigh in on the matter.

"If Rooney had behaved like that in Wolverhampton on Saturday night, I would have expected my officers to lock him up," Superintendent Mark Payne wrote in his blog.

"I have seen a thousand Rooneys, and I am sure most police officers will have. The same aggressive stance, the bulging eyes, the foul-mouthed rant, fists clenched, surrounded by his mates, all cheering him on."

Still, with the issue of the ban now settled, it is worth assessing just how big a blow Rooney's 180-minute absence will be for United.

Fulham travel to Old Trafford tomorrow having lost all but one of their previous nine Premier League visits

The Cottagers can take heart from the fact they pegged them back to a 2-2 draw in London back in August, but United are protecting the division's only remaining unbeaten home record (just two points dropped there so far this campaign).

Those facts will make as glum reading for Arsenal fans as it will for Fulham supporters. The Rooney ban may give them a tiny sliver of hope of pipping United to the title, but that hope is still as thin as Robin van Persie's hamstrings.

The real test of how much Rooney will be missed comes next weekend when the Manchester derby kicks off at Wembley with a place in the FA Cup final at stake.

To that end, City manager Roberto Mancini is pleased that the England striker will not be lining up against his team.

"At this moment Rooney is not 100 per cent, he is playing at 200 per cent," Mancini said.

"But if he can't play, okay. We know he can change a game at any moment like when we played at Old Trafford this year. That day we deserved to draw or to win and Rooney scored a fantastic goal."

Mancini is right to be talking Rooney's form up. Since the turn of the year Rooney has scored 11 goals in 17 games for United, culminating in the only strike of Wednesday's Champions League quarter-final first leg against Chelsea on Wednesday.

However, the only Premier League match that he has missed since New Year's Day, a home clash with Stoke, ended in a 2-1 win anyway.

Javier Hernandez scored the opening goal of that game, and he is one half of the reason why United should not fear missing their star man for just two games.

Between them, Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov have scored nine goals in their 11 Premier League appearances together this season. While Berbatov only accounts for two of those, Hernandez has netted seven of his 11 league strikes while sharing the pitch with the mercurial Bulgarian.

With that sort of combination up front, it seems that the media will suffer from a week without Wazza a lot more than United will.

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QUESTION OF THE DAY: Have you ever seen a more amazing penalty than this?

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COMING UP: Video previews, team news and match facts for each of the weekend's Premier League fixtures are coming up, plus team news for the rest of the Football League and Europe's major competitions. Jim White gives us his two cents on the big issues while Paul Parker looks ahead to the main talking points of the weekend.

The third part of our interview with Roberto Mancini sees the Manchester City boss share with us his thoughts on moving from Italy, the club's future and managing the most expensive squad in the Premier League.

And, away from football, the second day of The Masters at Augusta is given the full live treatment, with Rory McIlroy sharing the lead after the first round.

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