Paul Parker

Falcao coup brilliant for United - but it's the end of the road for Rooney

Paul Parker

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Manchester United's captain Wayne Rooney shows his frustration

Manchester United's captain Wayne Rooney shows his frustration

 Manchester United caught everyone by surprise by signing Radamel Falcao on the last day of the transfer window - it was a total shock to me considering that City, Arsenal and Juventus were all meant to be in for him.

Was it good luck? A good piece of work? It's hard to say just yet, but I'd guess that having Louis van Gaal as manager was key in attracting him.

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For the player himself it's a slight worry that he's now missing out on Champions League football once again - but in every other respect I've got huge admiration for the choice he's made. I've always said that a club like Manchester United should be able to attract players simply for its status in the game, regardless of how they're doing at any given moment.

When I went there in 1991 I didn't care that they hadn't won the league in 20-odd years, I just cared that I was going to United - because for a player, there is nothing like testing yourself at a big club. I really questioned Falcao's motives and commitments when he went to Monaco last summer, but taking this new move shows that he really does have the ambition and drive to be a top player. It's great to see.

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And for United, it's a huge relief to see him arrive because they've been tepid up front so far this season. Worse than tepid actually. Very, very, very poor. Robin van Persie clearly just isn't right - there's a lot of talk about him maybe needing an operation, and it sure seems like there's something big that's holding him back.

As for Wayne Rooney, he's been awful. There he was at Burnley this weekend, supposedly captaining the team - but I saw a player interested only in himself, doing nothing to try and lift his game or inspire his team-mates. The only thing in any way remarkable about his performance is that he collects £300,000 a week to play that badly.

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Once Van Persie is fully-fit again, Rooney must be the person to be dropped from United's new attacking line-up: for me, it'll be RVP and Falcao every time. And though there's lots of talk about him playing in the hole behind that front two, I think that'd be a huge mistake - why would you have Rooney there when Juan Mata or Angel Di Maria would do the job so much better?

That'll leave Van Gaal with a big call to make: dropping Wayne Rooney. He's always shown in his career that he's not afraid of the big decisions; he showed it most recently with his goalkeeper substitution for the shoot-out at the World Cup, and he'll have to show it once again because the way things are looking there will be no place for Rooney in that starting line-up soon.

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A few weeks ago, I read Jamie Redknapp's column saying more or less the exact opposite - saying (ahead of the arrival of Di Maria and Falcao) that Rooney would be the only United player who'd get into the side at Chelsea or Manchester City. I actually laughed out loud when I read it, because it's just total rubbish - maybe Jamie's a friend of Wayne and doesn't want to upset him, but it's miles away from the truth. He's not a patch on the likes of Diego Costa or Sergio Aguero - and as we've seen in the past, rather than react by upping his game and sharpening up his act, he's more likely to down tools and start sulking about his treatment. In retrospect he should probably have been sold to Chelsea last summer - I said at the time that it was probably the right moment for him to move on. It certainly looks like the end of the road is coming soon though. 

United do look strong up front though, despite the fact that Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez have gone. Hernandez was what he was - an impact sub and a decent finisher, no more and no less, like a Mexican Tony Cottee. But Welbeck is a different story, and a lot of people will be sad to see him go. He's really come through at United, and is a proper all-round footballer rather than just an out-and-out striker. For Arsenal, £16m for an international regular seems like a fantastic bargain - especially when you think that he's still just 23 and has years of improvement ahead of him. The Gunners will fit him well - I think his sale is one that United will live to regret.

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They'll also live to regret the failure to sign at least one more centre-half. Daley Blind looks good, and as part of a back-three you'd say at least one of the players will be solid with him in the side. But the likes of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling look outpaced and outclassed in the Premier League - not quick enough, not good enough positionally, and with little idea what to do with the ball when they have it. If Van Gaal persists with 3-5-2 you're talking about a team that has only one player in the back three that you'd trust to play the ball out of his own half.

There's some talk about United maybe moving to 4-3-3 instead - but I can't help thinking that the lack of top players on the right will be a problem. Antonio Valencia is a great player in many ways, but he's rightly nicknamed Dracula in some quarters because he appears to have an appalling phobia of crosses. And Van Gaal doesn't seem to rate Rafael either - so while having another man at the back would be a huge help in a defence that looks bad, it'd mean that the team loses its width in midfield.

Given the talent that has arrived this summer, that'd be a real shame especially as that's where Di Maria is at his best. The Argentine's debut was one of the great positives of the weekend, since he was United's best player by some distance and a man who can make an enormous difference to the side.

I've always thought that United will get back into the top four this season, probably at the expense of Liverpool, and - despite all those worries in defence - there's now even more reason to think they'll return to the Champions League next year. 

- Paul Parker

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