A lot of people were breaking out their Jump to Conclusions mats when Manchester United’s Boxing Day squad was announced. Mimicking the panic that briefly ensued when “Dempsey” didn’t appear on Spurs’ weekend team sheet, the Internets went ablaze speculating Wayne Rooney, not in manager Alex Ferguson’s 18, was being dropped because of a poor performance against Swansea.
Because that’s the kind of thin ice 11-year veteran walks around Old Trafford, right? Boy, we must really be hoping for some crash and burn from Mr. Rooney.
Instead, there was a much more reasonable explanation for the United star’s absence for today’s match against Newcastle:
#mufc says Rooney, Young injured in training yesterday, with Welbeck taken ill overnight...—
jamie jackson (@GuardianJamieJ) December 26, 2012
Suffice to say the omissions of Young and Welbeck failed to cause a similar level of speculation.
How much will Manchester United miss Rooney? Well, they still have enough firepower to start Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez up top. So dry those tears.
Perhaps more interesting than Rooney’s omission are the other names included in Ferguson’s team; specifically, handing starts to both Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, who’ll be in a midfield with Antonio Valencia and Michael Carrick. With both Tom Cleverley and Darren Fletcher on the bench, Ferguson seems to have chosen a midfield that could be had. But as Manchester United’s critics are quick to point out, he always chooses a midfield that could be had.
That’s where Rooney’s absence may be more acutely felt. Clearly van Persie and Hernandez have goals in them, but neither are going to be of particular help to the midfield. When playing, Rooney often makes himself into a fifth man in the middle. The Red Devils’ four will be on their own today.
Another note from Jamie Jackson: Shinji Kagawa, out since early this season with a knee injury, was taking warmups with his teammates. The Japan international was not in the team’s 18.