Comment - Rooney key to United future
But as the 'Tevez v United' saga rumbles on, scenes causing far greater distress may be by-passing the red half of Manchester.
Tevez wrote his own headlines in Tuesday's Carling Cup thriller at Eastlands and his showing was unquestionably the standout performance. But as the majority of camera lenses fixated on the Argentine, Wayne Rooney was never out of the picture.
The 24-year-old was sensational, a constant menace and the hub of all United's activity – not for the first time this season.
His movement for Ryan Giggs's early opener was sublime and if Alan Hansen hadn't made such a fuss about it in his analysis, such was the subtlety it could have slipped by unnoticed.
Never has the onus on Rooney to deliver been so great. The loss of former world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo, and to a lesser extent Tevez, has been catastrophic.
Love him or loathe him, Ronaldo lit up the Premier League and his move to Real Madrid has left a massive void at Old Trafford. Putting his phenomenal goal-scoring record aside, the Portuguese flyer was the perfect foil for Rooney.
In Ronaldo, Rooney had an ally, a footballer on the same wavelength. They complimented each other so well – the greyhound speed of Ronaldo, the bulldog strength of Rooney, the selfish individual the selfless team player, together the two R's ripped teams apart.
With Ronaldo no longer by his side, the England striker could easily have gone into his shell. Judging by his recent form, the possibility of Rooney slipping into a world of mediocrity is a lifetime away.
A striker will always be judged on goals. Sixteen goals in all competitions this term and heading the Premier League scorers chart only tells half the story.
United have been so consistently inconsistent this season it defies belief that they sit third in the league, one point off the summit.
And the summer acquisition of Dimitar Berbatov has simply been a disaster. The Bulgarian remains a constant source of frustration; his ability just doesn't match his output and for all neutrals it's a crying shame.
So how does this impact on Rooney?
In previous seasons he's been farmed out on the right wing, merely doing a job for the team. Now, in his more favoured central role, Rooney finally holds the paintbrush to become the creator his talent deserves. Unfortunately for Rooney, it's the surrounding talent, or lack of, which hinders his art.
United are missing several necessities: a midfield marvel who understands Rooney's genius and a goal scorer who can make the most of inspiring build-up play.
As debt revelations continue to haunt the club, rumours are circulating regarding Rooney's future. If England's talisman is allowed to leave the club, United will be nothing. A short-sighted view?
Granted one player doesn't make a club. But Rooney is arguably United's sole world class player.
And arguably, never has one player been so important to a club's future.
by Tom Walker
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