Rooney gives Fergie a headache
Wayne Rooney's best start to a campaign for United may provide Sir Alex Ferguson with a tactical dilemma against Arsenal this Saturday. Four goals in four matches, including the Community Shield, have seen the England striker burst from the blocks this term. But Fergie got the measure of Arsene Wenger in the two-legged Champions League semi-final last spring big style when his system destroyed the Gunners. But the success of the blueprint relied upon Rooney in a disciplined wide left role. Though the same tactics were to later leave the 23-year-old isolated and anonymous in the final against Barcelona, there was no doubt it was the key to the last four comprehensive aggregate defeat of the Londoners. But memories of Rome have forced Fergie into a rethink and he's shelved the plan that saw Rooney shift from an out and out centre forward role operating in a link-up with another striker. The Old Trafford manager has reverted to 4-4-2 and Rooney has revelled in the central role with a touch of freedom attached. Rooney has been a previous thorn in Arsenal's side when he wasn't operating out wide. Four goals for the Reds against them, plus another he will argue to this day he shouldn't have had chalked off by the dubious goals committee at the Emirates in November 2007. Sensational And will Wenger ever forget the 16-year-old Everton debutant who ruined a 30-match unbeaten run with a sensational blockbusting long range hit that sailed over David Seaman in October 2002. As effective as Rooney was against the Gunners in the European Cup semis, to a man United fans are delighted those shackles have not been slapped back on the £30m man. Former United defender Gary Pallister is among those happy to see Rooney causing havoc up front again but understands the dilemma the player's attitude puts Fergie in. "From day one Sir Alex will have known full well that the best way to play Wayne Rooney is up front, just off another striker," said Gary. "That's where he is most destructive and dangerous. That's where defenders don't want him to be. He can express himself there and cause untold damage. "But it is fully understandable when you have a young man with his work ethic and attitude that at times you will use him for the good of the team. "A player like Rooney who doesn't spit his dummy out of the pram when he is asked to play away from his favoured position but will do it superbly is a Godsend to a manager. "Wayne won't bang on the manager's door complaining about it. But what he can do and he appears to be doing this season is sending a message to the boss that he cannot afford to move him back wide even temporarily. "He looks like a player who is saying I am going to do so much goal damage that you can't put me back out wide. "When Wayne Rooney is in that mood then defenders had better watch out. He won't give anyone any peace and quiet. "He rats around defenders, biting at them and that's the last thing you want at the back. He's got great annoyance value! Frightening "I cannot think of anyone I played against or with who comes close to the player Wayne is. It is quite frightening to think of what he can do and he is still only 23. "He is about four or five years off his peak and if he keeps progressing the way he is then he can achieve anything." Cristiano Ronaldo's exit to Real Madrid has cleared a path for Rooney to become United's number one asset and danger man. He has grasped the nettle with relish and Pallister believes Ronaldo's world crown could be his for the taking. "Wayne is the type of player who needs a challenge and Ronaldo going has given him a new one," added Gary. "He'll have seen Cristiano become World Player of the Year and, though I don't think he is the type who says `look at me I am a superstar,' I believe that title might be one he thinks he is capable of achieving. "I wouldn't bet against him doing it one day. He has got the stage, he has got the hunger and desire and he certainly has the ability in his locker to achieve it. "It looks like he will now get his more favoured position for most of the season and with that I think he will certainly score more than 20 goals and is capable of the 25 to 30 bracket. "He contributed to Arsenal's downfall in the Champions League in that disciplined role but they certainly won't be looking forward to facing him on Saturday in the role and mood he is in."