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Rooney: With Guardiola, England ‘could have won everything’

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Between 2000-2008, the England National Team had some of the best individual players in their positions in all of world soccer. Yet they never made it past the quarterfinals in any tournament they competed in, and the “Golden Generation” came to a relative end with England failing to qualify for the 2008 European Championship all together.

According to Wayne Rooney, in a sit down with Roger Bennett from Men in Blazers on the Wayne Rooney Podcast, had England had a better coach, they would have won it all.

[READ: USMNT Roundtable from the PST Staff]

“You look at our team ten years ago and we arguably had the best group of players in world football,” Rooney said. “Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Gerrard, Scholes, Lampard, Beckham, Myself, Michael Owen. Our team then, if we had Guardiola, with that group of players, we would have won everything. No doubt about it.”

If you’re like me and you’ve enjoyed Rooney’s honest chats with Rog, it’s not super surprising to hear him speak this off the cuff about a major moment earlier in his career. There’s a lot to break down from this comment, though.

Rooney’s first manager for England was the Swede Sven-Goran Eriksen. Eriksen, when he took over England in 2001, was coming off leading Lazio – yes Lazio – to the Serie A title, and had previous success with Fiorentina, Roma, and Benfica in Portugal.

He was ultimately criticized for his lack of fire and emotion on the touchline, as he watched England get knocked out of the quarterfinals at both the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, and the 2004 European Championships. The 2004 Euros and 2006 World Cup exits were both on penalty kicks, both to Portugal.

Rooney of course was injured against Portugal in the 2004 tournament, and had been injured in the run up to the 2006 World Cup and wasn’t at his best for that tournament either.

Perhaps the biggest indictment against Eriksen’s leadership – and that of the managers before him – was that Paul Scholes retired from international duty at just 30-years old, despite being one of the best holding midfielders in the world. Eriksen had tried, repeatedly to somehow fit Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Scholes into a 4-4-2, with one forced to play along the wing, and Scholes apparently decided if he wasn’t valued enough, he’d quit while he was ahead.

You wonder if Guardiola, or any coach today, with the value played on a good holding midfielder, would have made Scholes the first name on the teamsheet.

Things didn’t get much better for England after Eriksen, and Steve McLaren failed to qualify England for the 2008 Euros and was run out of town, but the damage was done.

So could Guardiola have won the World Cup with the former Golden Generation? Perhaps. But Guardiola would have struggled to get all these individual talents – many of whom were rivals for their club teams – to play together and play for the flag on their chest.

Listen to the rest of Rooney’s chat with Rog below.

Manchester United lead Fulham 3-0 with barely 20 minutes played

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Fulham looked positively woeful against Southampton last weekend, and defensive errors led to them getting dumped out of the Capital One Cup by Championship side Leicester City midweek. Now, it seems they might be in for an absolute thumping by Manchester United.

Less than ten minutes had passed before the visitors had their first goal. Robin van Persie rolled the ball over to Wayne Rooney, who sprung the offside trap before taking his time, waiting for his teammates to arrive. He chose to slide the ball over to Antonio Valencia, who simply needed to tap it past Maarten Stekelenburg. The entire move happened in slow motion.

The next goal came in the 20th minute. Adnan Januzaj won the ball in midfield, running toward the center before setting up van Persie. It seemed the forward may have been offside when the ball ended up in the net, but United were on the board with two goals to their name.

It didn’t stay that way for long, however. Less than two minutes later, it was Rooney’s turn to tap the ball into the back of the net. This time the goal came up from the back down the right hand side, meeting van Persie once again. The Dutchman had plenty of time and acres of space to ensure his pass to Rooney was perfect, leaving his partner with little to do but get his foot on the end of the ball.

Manchester United may have had a few rough spells this season, but it seems exceedingly unlikely that Fulham, who look clueless, will find a way out of this mess.

Manchester United 4-2 Bayer Leverkusen: Rooney brace gives Moyes first Champions League win (Video)

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Manchester United put in their most impressive performance of the David Moyes era, dictating their UEFA Champions League opener from the opening kickoff en route of a 4-2 victory over Bayer Leverkusen.

Wayne Rooney’s goal, volleyed home from a Patrice Evra cross, opened the scoring in the 22nd minute at Old Trafford, giving United a lead that would last through halftime. Early in the second, though, Simon Rolfes’ deflected shot off Michael Carrick beat a flat-footed David de Gea, briefly giving Bayer hope of a result.

But United’s dominant form saw Robin van Persie and Rooney add goals before the 70th minute, with the home side claiming full points after Antonio Valencia and Ömer Toprak traded late scores. Had it not been for easy misses from Rooney (first half) and Van Persie (second), the score would have better reflected United’s control.

The result leaves United on top of Group A, tied with Shakhtar Donetsk (who won at Real Sociedad, 2-0) but ahead of Ukraine’s champions on goals scored. The win also gives Moyes this first Champions League win of his 25-year coaching career.

While United have started Premier League play 2-1-1 and sit a comfortable fifth after a month’s play, the Red Devils had failed to show the dominance you’d expect from their talent. With Shinji Kagawa and Marouane Fellaini making their first starts of the season, the defending Premier League champions changed that story on Tuesday, maintaining 57 percent of the game’s possession despite spending most of the match protecting leads. It was type of performance United fans have been waiting for.

source: Getty Images
Three second half goals, including one from Robin Van Persie, helped Manchester United to the top of Group A after one Champions League round. (Source: Getty Images.)

The same could be said of Rooney as an individual. Through there was controversy surrounding his opener (Valencia apparently interfering with Bernd Leno as the shot bounced up and under the crossbar), there was no controversy on Rooney’s second, a nice finish from the left of goal. The English international went on to set up Valencia’s goal, capping a Man of the Match-level performance.

It’s exactly the type of form Moyes would have wanted his team to conjure ahead of this weekend’s Manchester Derby, and although their rivals (Manchester City) had a similarly dominant evening in the Czech Republic (downing Viktoria Plzen, 3-0), tonight’s showing will leave thoughts of City for Wednesday. Tonight, the Red Devils can bask in the glow of a convincing Champions League opener.

Lineups

Manchester United: De Gea; Evra, Vidic, Ferdinand, Smalling; Fellaini (80′ Cleverley), Carrick; Kagawa (71′ Young), Rooney (84′ Hernandez), Valencia; Van Persie. Unused subs: Lindegaard, Fabio, Evans, Anderson

Bayer Leverkusen: Leno; Boenisch, Spahic, Toprak, Donati; Rolfes, Reinart, Can; Son (64′ Bender), Kießbling (78′ Derdiyok), Sam (78′ Kruse). Unused subs: Öztunall, Wollscheld, Palop, Hilbert

Goals

22′ 70′ Rooney, 54′ Rolfes, 59′ Van Persie, 79′ Valencia, 82′ Toprak

Amid worry, Alex Ferguson book could be a positive for Rooney, Manchester United

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Over a month ahead of the release of Alex Ferguson’s second autobiography, The Guardian’s Daniel Taylor, as informed in all things Manchester United as anybody, has detailed the potential implications of what may be an unsettling tell all. Particularly given Wayne Rooney, a likely target in Ferguson’s book, has just been re-integrated at United, Red Devils’ management are reportedly concerned their former manager’s parting shot could rock a newly stabilized boat.

This spring Ferguson ended his 26-year career at Manchester United with his 13th title and controversy, claiming Rooney had asked for a transfer just before the end to United’s season. That led to an off-season where the 27-year-old was constantly linked with moves away from Old Trafford, most notably to Chelsea, with speculation finally dying out shortly before the close of the summer window. Now back in the team and performing well as United’s number 10, Rooney looks poised to resume business as usual in Manchester.

Hence the danger of Ferguson’s latest memoir, which is scheduled to be released on Oct. 24. From Taylor’s column:

He might be gone but you will be hearing an awful lot about Ferguson over the next couple of months and it is probably no surprise that at Old Trafford they are wondering whether a storm of locusts is about to head their way. Or that one question, more than any other, is being asked: is Ferguson about to blow apart the Wayne Rooney peace process?

He can hardly ignore what has happened, the breakdown of their relationship, the transfer request, the cow looking into the next field and all that, and when Ferguson makes it his business to get in the final word it is a potent pot of poison in which he dabs his quill.

If Taylor’s saying Old Trafford’s wondering, that may as well as be from United themselves. Taylor’s reporting on Manchester United has been as consistently well-informed as anybody. If he’s been told about these worries, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that United’s letting this story out, an early attempt to provide context for a potential blowback.

Given Paul Hayward, a former Guardian scribe, will have his name on the cover of Ferguson’s book, it’s also plausible to assume Taylor’s assumptions about the autobiography’s content aren’t mere speculation. Taylor’s not likely to devote so may words to the subject of mere speculation.

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Rooney, pictured above running away from Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, has played in two of United’s three Premier League games this season, picking up two assists in the team’s opening day weekend win at Swansea City. Starting his 10th season at the club, Rooney has 141 league goals in 280 Manchester United appearances.

From Taylor:

But it is Ferguson’s views on Rooney that threaten the most damage and it is easy to understand why, behind the scenes, United are worried about it undermining David Moyes and creating all sorts of new issues. Rooney, as if it needs recapping, has just spent the summer trying to get a move to Chelsea only for his current employers to make it clear he can think again. Now they are going through the process of trying to convince Rooney he can start enjoying life at Old Trafford again, working on his ego, trying to demonstrate they still value him highly.

“[T]hink again” is a very telling phrase, though in that way, Ferguson’s book can actually help United demonstrate their loyalty to Rooney. If, in the face of the book’s possible controversy, the Red Devils stand behind Rooney and make it clear the player has their full support, Rooney will be able to see the stark contrast between May and now. He will be able to juxtapose the memories rekindled by Ferguson’s words and the behavior he sees from his current bosses. By being reminded how things were, he may be able to appreciate how things are.

It will be delicate for United, though. The last thing they want to do is insult an icon, so being respectful of Ferguson’s words will be a paramount concern. But the public tension between the club’s needs and Ferguson’s stories will be seen by the ex-manager as pragmatism. Ferguson’s not so self-involved to believe United’s current policies will revolve around him. As long as United leave their strongest criticism to Rooney’s private reassurances, the club can serve two masters.

One of the ironies of this situation — a potential book causing so much controversy — is the role Rooney’s book had in the divide between himself and Moyes. The player’s 2006 autobiography led Moyes to sue over claims the former Everton prospect made about his then ex-boss. The libel claim was eventually settled out of the court, with Rooney paying off Moyes while issuing an apology.

Now Moyes and Rooney may have to work together to defuse the effects of Ferguson’s book, though with Moyes having already bent over backwards to assimilate Rooney into the team, the book may only seal their new bond.

Arsenal joins Wayne Rooney chase; Manchester United fans have to love this

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In the four years since Cristiano Ronaldo left for Real Madrid, Manchester United have played out a Wayne Rooney era that needs to end, be that with his move to another club or the player accepting a new role within the team. While at one time Rooney was talismanic, now only the most loyal of  fans would see the 27-year-old as needed, let alone wanted. On huge wages that only add to his mounting baggage, it’s a bit perplexing that any top club wants to add him to their payroll, let alone pay a $30 million fee to the privilege.

But that’s what Chelsea are rumored to have offered to Manchester United for the want-away striker, a bid that was reported rejected by the Red Devils. Provided technical director Michael Emenalo doesn’t up the ante, Blues fan should see United’s decision as a $150 million bullet dodged. Between transfer fees and wages Rooney would garner should a club sign him a to five-year deal at his Manchester salary, that huge bill would accompany the England international to his new home.

Despite Rooney scoring 100 times (all competitions) in 164 games since Ronaldo left Manchester, that’s crazy money to throw at a player who turns 28 in October – a forward that scored only 16 times last season. But what’s even crazier is that Chelsea may not be the only bidder. According to reports out of England late Wednesday, Arsenal is ready to compete with their London rivals for Rooney’s signature.

Given Rooney’s wages, the chances of him moving to Arsenal having to be long, but if Arsène Wenger suddenly decides players making almost double what he might pay Gonzalo Higuaín would be acceptable, the move would be worse for the Gunners than the the Blues. Rooney is just not a player any team should be committing $150 million to right now, let alone a team that’s unlikely to compete for a title.

Regardless, Manchester United fans have to love this. Not only does it seem a player who has become a problem might be sold (though the team insists he’s still not for sale), but the Red Devils could make a major dent in a rival’s finances if they sell in league, using the generous fee somebody’s willing to pay to invest that in a capable, less expensive replacement.

In a more rational world, Manchester United would be stuck with their egregious mistake, but in the decidedly irrational world of club soccer, their error might pay off.