The international break is always a busy time for the players of Manchester United and this week has been no different. Wayne Rooney was heavily involved in England’s 2-1 win at home to Slovenia and will take his place up front in the key match against Croatia at Wembley on Wednesday. Dimitar Berbatov scored in Bulgaria’s 4-1 win over Montenegro, Patrice Evra was involved for France as was Jonny Evans for Northern Ireland to name but a few. The main concern for Sir Alex Ferguson is that all his players come through the next match unscathed and ready to face the tough test of high-flying Tottenham and in-form Jermain Defoe come Saturday. Rooney was used in a central striking role for England as is most often the case under Fabio Capello and Ferguson has again reiterated his feelings that this is his best position and that is where we will see him dominate this season for United.
What will be concerning both Capello and Ferguson is the controversy which seems to be following Rooney since the punishment dished out by UEFA to Arsenal’s Eduardo. Rooney was accused of simulation to win the penalty which brought United’s equaliser against the Gunners and he has now been accused again by Slovenia goalkeeper Samir Handanovic for his part in winning the penalty for England. Prior to the match at Wembley, Rooney felt the need to defend himself over the accusations from the Arsenal match stating the following: “Everyone who watches me knows I’m an honest player. I play the game as honestly as I can. If the referee gives a penalty there is nothing you can do.”
This is not the place to debate whether Rooney is an honest player or not but it was not only the fact that Rooney went down easily it was the manner in which he appealed to the referee following the challenge which has upset the Udinese shot stopper Handanovic: “It was wrong for him to do this. It was not fair play but this is football. I don’t know what we can do about it now.”
The Slovenians clearly feel that this was gamesmanship by the United man and due to England being, in their opinion a bigger team than Slovenia and playing on their home patch, the penalty was given. It is unfortunate for Rooney that these events have come in the immediate aftermath of the Eduardo decision as there will be so much focus on that aspect of the game with people airing their opinions much more openly on the subject. In fact towards the end of last week Sir Alex agreed with UEFA’s decision due to the high profile nature of the Champions League. He also felt that he “wouldn’t have been pleased if my player had done that.”
Now one of his players is being accused and even if Rooney was being honest, as he maintains, there is no doubt that the spotlight will be on him in the wake of Eduardo. This is simply speculation but these rumours may play a part if Rooney goes down in the area under challenge again, whether honest or not. This should not play on the mind of the referee but with this the hot topic of the moment it is unlikely that it will not.
Another hot topic of the moment is the sanctions handed down to Chelsea regarding the inducement of a player to break his contract with his existing club. Le Harve President Jean-Pierre Louvel has this week made contact with FIFA regarding United’s signing of young French starlet Paul Pogba. United signed him as a 15-year-old after supposedly contacting his parents and making “astronomical and excessive financial propositions.” FIFA have yet to receive an official complaint from Le Harve and United insist that there is no wrongdoing and any case against them will be challenged. The football world is currently up in arms with the ‘big clubs’ flexing their financial muscles and poaching all the young talent from the clubs who have nurtured these players, with the Head of the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) and FIFPro (the worldwide equivalent of the PFA) Gordon Taylor backing a ban on transfers for all players under 18. If FIFA believe the facts of the Pogba case follow the same line as the Gael Kakuta case then it is likely that United may be hit with a similar punishment to that which was handed to Chelsea. If the ban on under 18 transfers is introduced it will also clearly affect the transfer policy of a club which firmly believes in nurturing the top young talent in Europe.
Manchester United Club Focus
Welcome to Manchester, Michael – July 29
Goals from midfield the order of the day – August 5
Respect the consistency – August 12
Injury plague piles pressure on forwards – August 18
Usual slow starters living up to their reputation but is there cause for concern? – August 22
Enter the Champions – August 25
Anderson and Vidic pledge their allegiance – August 28
Win fails to hide Rooney’s need for a wingman – September 1
Ferguson sticking to his guns – September 4
Fingers pointed towards Old Trafford – September 8