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Wayne Rooney

The former Everton forward is another in the long line of Sir Alex Ferguson-developed adaptable players. Just this season alone he has played up front in a traditional 4-4-2, played on either wing and looked at home in a traditional 10 position behind Javier Hernandez. For the finals though it is likely the manager would go for Rooney as a lone striker, where he would play the role of a false 9 with the hope that his movement creates space for the wingers to run into. Last season he thrived as a lone striker and there isn’t really reason why Sir Alex would not pick him to lead the line. He is strong on the ball plus he can play with his back to goal exceptionally well also when he drops deep to collect the ball his tendency to hit well weighted diagonal passes to the flanks will come in handy as they Red Devils may try to exploit Barcelona on the flanks. However, there is one reason why the manager should not play Wayne Rooney as a lone striker and that is the revelation that is ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez, but a stronger case can be made for the Englishman’s selection over the Mexican. The reasons are as follows:-

1. Rooney has shown that he is flexible as a forward, can play with his back to goal, run onto balls played over the top or into the channels and he links up well with those playing around him. Chicharito is one who waits on the final ball. He does not get involved in the build up and he does not fare well with his back to goal. Against Barcelona, the last thing United would want is a forward who who can be easily isolated from the rest of the team and a multifaceted striker who can do most of what the Mexican can do plus some would be necessary.

2. Hernandez plays best when Rooney plays directly behind him in the classical number 10 position but it’s difficult to see Sir Alex Ferguson sticking with this strike force although it has given Manchester United much success in recent games. Coming up against a team so technically gifted and dangerous as Barcelona it is best for one to put out a team that can neutralize their threats and contribute in the attacking phase. Rooney, who is often lauded for his defensive efforts, strengths in this phase is his recovery speed and the tenacity he shows to win the ball back, is not that good at man-marking. Playing behind Hernandez would most likely put him up against Xavi, who Sir Alex would want to stop from pulling the strings from deep and would designate a permanent man marker to him. Not only may Rooney not be up to the man-marking task but when the playmaker ventures higher up the pitch as he normally he would drag the forward away to a deep position where he would be less of an attacking threat and further away from Hernandez, thus isolating him.

Like Valencia, Rooney doesn’t have any noticeable weaknesses especially since he has come into form in the second half of the season. This though would be his third Champions League final and he hasn’t perform well in the previous two so maybe he would take this opportunity to correct those wrongs or the trend will continue.

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