Date: 31st August 2009 at 10:46pm
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The ‘burden is on Wayne Rooney to replace Cristiano Ronaldo as United’s source of creativity’. Oh my god, this is so boring.

The papers try to sell us that it’s the absence of Ronaldo which causes the problems with creativity. Well, no: the problems were very much there last season as well. It has many reasons but it must be made clear that during the last two campaign Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t a frequent provider, he left the creative work for others.

I had no problem with that as his biggest strength was being an athletic, strong goal machine with the knack of conjuring a goal out of thin air. That is something we most definitely miss and will miss even more badly but creativity hasn’t become an issue with him leaving.

Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov are the four most intelligent and creative players in the squad with Carrick languishing not far behind. Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs are getting older and older, the latter had a horrible game against Arsenal – and still he supplied the pass to Rooney before the penalty and he crossed the ball for Diaby to head home magnificently.

Carrick is too defensive-minded and not quick enough to ever become a consistent creative spark. He’s a deep-lying playmaker which would be fine if he had someone ahead of him connecting him with the attackers. That someone could be Wayne Rooney but Fergie seems strangely reluctant to try him in that withdrawn role.

Berbatov can also provide the creative spark from that deeper position and that was used on a number of occasions last season but it’s not the Bulgarian’s best position. His best, as Fergie admitted, is up front with Rooney just behind him. The orthodox 4-4-2 can work but to play to the strengths of the midfield I believe we should drop Rooney deeper than in 4-4-2 requires. However, his goal return this season suggests that we need him as the most advanced attacker.

So yes, it’s a dilemma. Fergie does not want to buy a midfielder so I still believe that the best option is withdrawing Rooney. He might score less goals (his record is 5 out of 5 this season) but we would create more chances and Berbatov, Valencia and perhaps Nani could thrive on it. The traditional, standard 4-4-2 is too rigid to bring the best out of Rooney AND provide balance in midfield at the same time.

We’ll see, of course, what happens, as Fergie is more of a tactical expert than I am. But ultimately, it will be about the players. If Nani and Anderson can’t pull themselves together, if Berbatov does not step up and play to his true abilities, then no tactical shuffling will do the trick. In 2007/08, with Nani, Anderson, Hargreaves all playing in good form we could simply overwhelm teams with pressure and Scholes and Giggs chipped in with the occasional brilliance (like Scholes’ masterclass against Liverpool at Old Trafford).

Last season we had a poor Nani, an inconsistent Anderson, we did not have Hargreaves, Tevez was sulking, Scholes and Giggs became older – no wonder Ronaldo could not reproduce the heights of 2007/08, no matter we were underwhelming throughout the campaign. We have a problem in attack, yes, and they’re nothing new. It’s time to find a solution that passes most tests it’s about to take.