Super Rooney could put off top strikers
Wayne Rooney's first- class personal season could cause Sir Alex Ferguson a major headache this summer. While the United striker is on World Cup duty with England the Reds boss will be on his holidays with his mobile phone switched on waiting for reports from Old Trafford chief executive David Gill on how his transfer wish-list is progressing. United will want to snap up any targets on duty in South Africa ahead of the finals to avoid the possibility of transfer fees going sky high on the back of a decent performance at the tournament. The Reds may keep some powder dry in case someone not on the radar prior to the World Cup takes Fergie's fancy. But whatever the timescale of the United manager's dealings a potentially frustrating time is on the horizon for wheeler dealer Gill if a top-notch striker is on the agenda. And that's all Rooney's fault. The 24-year-old England hitman has been sensational this season. An inflamed knee tendon that saw him limp away from Old Trafford after the Liverpool match last Sunday is the only blot on what could be a sensational next four months in his career. Against Liverpool Rooney drove in his 33rd goal of the season and modern day United scoring records compiled by Cristiano Ronaldo and Ruud van Nistelrooy are under threat. He is also probably heading for a landslide success in the individual domestic awards. The PFA Player of the Year shortlist will come out next month and the other five contenders are arguably there to make up the numbers. It is likely that Chelsea's Didier Drogba and Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas are the only two who have some chance of beating Rooney. In the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year honour at the end of the season Rooney is again expected to win the vote by some margin. In truth, nobody else has really got a cat in hell's chance of stopping the Liverpudlian winning his first nationwide personal awards. And those pieces of individual silverware will highlight the problem Fergie will have persuading world-class hitmen to join his attack for next season. The manager who pioneered the four-strong senior strike force when he brought together Ole Solskjaer, Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke and Teddy Sheringham in the late 90s, is now operating with a lone front man in all the big matches. United have perfected the five-man midfield strategy with a single striker in the Champions League and the Category A Premier League showdowns. Apart from rare matches when Dimitar Berbatov or Michael Owen have been the solitary figure, it has been Rooney who has been the spearhead of the tactic. In 2010 in the showpiece games against City in the Carling Cup semis, Arsenal at the Emirates, the two Euro legs against AC Milan and the Liverpool match last weekend it has been Rooney who has taken the sole hitman burden on his shoulders with great success. Which makes you wonder what potential United attacking targets will make of that? If Fergie can leave £30.75m club record buy Berbatov kicking his heels on the big nights, what will someone like Valencia's David Villa be thinking if he's monitoring the Old Trafford situation in Spain as he ponders a possible move to England. The 28-year-old is reported to be Fergie's number one striker target this summer. But even a probable £35m transfer fee - breaking Old Trafford's record - and one of La Liga's best scoring records, will not grant the Spaniard a passport to United's XI on the glamour occasions. Villa can play himself as a lone striker, he also has the adaptability to shadow Rooney as the man in the hole behind the England forward - and can play wide. But having decided the Premier League is the place he wants to be, it might put a question mark in Villa's mind as to whether Old Trafford is his best destination. Rooney's form has already frustrated Berbatov and Owen this term, though the Bulgarian may get his chance if Rooney is rested against Bolton on Saturday. Young prospect Danny Welbeck had to go on loan to Preston, before injury forced him to return, because his chances had become limited. Federico Macheda, who is just back from injury himself, would have also discovered the pathway to the first team clogged up with a number of frustrated front men. With the lone striker policy working so well, it is not a plan that will be shelved. If Rooney's form continues next term as he moves into the peak years of his career, are the likes of David Villa going to be attracted to the role as his understudy?