Joe Strange - Manchester United are a one man team
Published: 05 Apr 2010 - 12:43:19
But with just five games left to play, the Reds find themselves in sixth place with an uphill battle on their hands to even finish in the fourth Champions League spot.
There's been plenty of criticism thrown Rafa's way over the past few months - poor man management, a divided dressing room and dodgy signings being among the more popular jibes.
But there's one piece of condemnation that seems to have more resonance than most - their over-reliance on prolific striker Fernando Torres.
Although something similar could be said about Steven Gerrard, Liverpool just don't look the same without the Spaniard leading the line up-front. And despite the Anfield club not having played particularly well all season, Torres' absences due to injury have undoubtedly been a huge factor in what has been a season to forget for the red half of Merseyside.
Up until Saturday lunchtime, the seasons' of Liverpool and Manchester United have been virtually incomparable in every way. But after Wayne Rooney-less United's dismal defeat to title rivals Chelsea, it seems as though they might have more in common than first thought.
Wazza missed the defeat to Carlo Ancelotti's men with an ankle injury sustained against Bayern Munich last Tuesday and was originally set for up to 4 weeks on the sidelines. But this morning reports have emerged that he could be set for a sensational return against Bayern in the second-leg of their Champions League quarter-final - just eight days after injuring himself at the Allianz Arena.
If these reports are true then it is a real indication that Sir Alex Ferguson realises his team might not have enough to turn over the 2-1 deficit from the first leg. Fergie is arguably the most experienced and knowledgeable manager in world football and the thought of him risking a half-fit Rooney would normally seem ludicrous - but not now.
Not after Saturday's defeat to Chelsea - a performance devoid of passion, belief and most importantly, quality. Dimitar Berbatov is no Wayne Rooney, Federico Macheda is not good enough and Michael Owen is crocked.
The loss of Cristiano Ronaldo last summer, and Ferguson's failure to replace him has given Rooney a chance to shine this season - 34 goals in all competitions shows how much he has embraced that opportunity. But when Wayne is injured, as he is now, United suddenly look a shadow of the team that brushed aside Arsenal at the Emirates and crushed AC Milan in the Champions League earlier this season.
Chelsea have won all of the games they've played without Didier Drogba this season, while Arsenal have coped admirably with the loss of key players Robin Van Persie and Cesc Fabregas.
The phrase 'one man team' might seem unfair for a side still chasing domestic and European glory, but when that man is Wayne Rooney it somehow seems much more fitting.
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- A product of Brighton University's prolific youth system, Joe Strange has boundless energy and the enviable ability to cover every blade of grass in his Monday blog. Joe has written for a variety of football websites and fanzines and is also a regular contributor to golf.co.uk. Despite being born and raised in Kent, 'Stranger' is a diehard Everton fan and counts his team's penalty shoot-out victory against Manchester United last season as his most memorable football moment. Follow Joe on Twitter @joe_strange.
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