Is Wayne Rooney the White Pele & was Robinho the worst signing in Premier League history?

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “In many ways our position at the club has become untenable. It makes you wonder what we are doing here at the moment. In my time at the club I have negotiated some expensive deals and I think I am good at it. If there is a need to sell players to keep the club afloat then I think I’m the best person to get the best fees. I didn’t know anything about these deals until I came into the office this morning and spoke to Avram. I was told there were meetings going on at Spurs. Avram is disappointed – he understands if someone has to be sold to keep the club going then so be it. But we both feel we could have got a better deal. I think Begovic is going to be a fantastic player so to sell him is not the best move in the world – that is the deal that Avram is disappointed with the most. We feel we have been pushed to one side.” – Peter Storrie.

Runner-up: “Don’t look on us as a one-man team or see it as a great burden on me, it’s nonsense. If I don’t get the service, I can’t score. If I don’t, I expect others to and we’ve done that well. We’ve shared the goals out well and it’s certainly not just about me. We expect to win as a team, not as individuals.” – Wayne Rooney. (Full interview here.)

Today’s overview: The aftermath of the Carling Cup semi-final second leg Manchester derby dominates this morning with Wayne Rooney hailed and a number of columnists backing City to win the war after losing the battle.

Henry Winter hails Wayne Rooney. “Rooney’s future appears intertwined with United’s – and how much the poorer they would be without him. What that goal against City could signal is a permanent new direction on the field. Unselfish and versatile, Rooney has been used in different roles by club and country, often supporting the lead striker. The player himself has spoken of his enjoyment of operating slightly deeper. He can get on the ball more. What Wednesday’s accomplished showing confirmed is that Rooney can operate as productively as a No 9 or a No 10.”

Jeff Powell asks if Wayne Rooney really is the White Pele. “True greatness is the product of consistent brilliance sustained down the years, the decades. It is not bestowed overnight. If Rooney is a Pele in the making, it will be some time before we have the proof. That is the long and the short of it.”

James Lawton suggests rivals are gaining on Manchester United. “Perhaps Arsenal have the wit to maintain their challenge, and give it new impetus in Sunday’s Premier League collision with United at the Emirates, maybe Chelsea and the resurgent Frank Lampard have too much strength and motivation for everybody. Yet who can discount United when they come to play as they eventually did at Old Trafford against City, when they go back to that which they do best, which is to attack in sufficient numbers to exploit the superb talent of Wayne Rooney?”

James Ducker reports Sir Alex Ferguson’s reaction to Rio Ferdinand’s four-game suspension. “Sir Alex Ferguson believes that the FA has been guilty of double standards over the decision yesterday to ban Rio Ferdinand for four matches. Ferdinand’s decision to contest a charge of violent conduct backfired when an independent regulatory commission handed the Manchester United defender an additional one-match ban on top of the mandatory three-game suspension after judging his appeal to be ‘frivolous’.

Daniel Taylor reports on City that Garry Cook’s days at Eastlands may be numbered. “Manchester City’s owners in Abu Dhabi are starting to give serious consideration to the position of the chief executive, Garry Cook, at the end of the season after becoming increasingly perturbed about his leadership style and the frequency with which he has attracted bad publicity. Cook has developed a reputation as one of the game’s more derided figures after a series of personal embarrassments in which his fondness for speaking his mind has come back to haunt him. The latest came in the build-up to the second leg of the Carling Cup semi-final against Manchester United when he was filmed telling supporters in New York’s Mad Hatter Saloon that City would get to Wembley ‘not if, but when, we beat United again’.”

Oliver Kay analyses what Manchester City have to do to join the big boys. “With Liverpool still struggling to shrug off their mid-season malaise, an opportunity exists for City to get into the top four in the league. The FA Cup, for which they are second-favourites behind Chelsea, represents another realistic target. But in the space of 24 hours, one trophy has slipped through their grasp and their trophy player has disappeared to Brazil. It is not crisis time by any means, but Mancini, like Cook and Mansour, has much to ponder as the much-hyped project enters phase two.”

Ian Herbert backs City and Cook in The Independent. “City do still appear to lack the Wayne Rooney talisman in the squad of largely solid Premier League players Hughes gathered around him and Mancini, who is not expected to launch a clear-out this summer, perhaps needs the marquee signing which City will go for when the opportunity arises. But who, bar Rooney, will be left at Old Trafford when Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes have gone? And which of the Manchester clubs is debt-free to buy more? Yes, that battle was absorbing but the war will be something else.”

Mark Ogden in the Telegraph also backs City to turn the tables on United. “Even with all of City’s spending power, Ferguson would struggle to identify a new Giggs and Scholes. Instead, he has to do it with a budget squeezed by interest repayments on the Glazers’ debt. City have no such concerns. They may have lost the battle against United, but they are still capable winning Manchester’s civil war. They have the money and they have time.”

Andy Cole empathises with Carlos Tevez over his return to Old Trafford. “So being a former player against United does not give you any great chance of success. All the examples above suggest the opposite. Tevez knows that, for now, first hand. I still think he’s a footballer of huge quality, fit for United, and he showed that with his dangerous play and his goal on Wednesday. The star of the show, though, from where I was sitting, was Wayne Rooney. There was some buzz in that crowd, and when Rooney headed that late deciding goal, it was fantastic. But then you would expect nothing less from a derby.”

Also in The Times on City, Tony Cascarino calls Robinho “the worst signing in Premier League history.” “My prediction for his future? He’ll party hard, play soft, get out of condition and he’ll drift from club to club, perhaps via Turkey and the Middle East, in a slow downward spiral towards obscurity. And in a few years’ time we’ll look back and say: what a waste of talent, what a waste of money.”

Harry Redknapp takes a different view on the Carling Cup semi-final second leg, and slams the fans that threw a coin at Craig Bellamy. “A lot is said about players needing mental toughness to make a decent career in football – but what about the mental toughness needed to take a corner in front of opposing fans? What about the real fear of thinking anyone near could be about to throw things at you? Players try to block out what happens on the terraces but, at times, it’s impossible and they are affected. For a few years all of this disappeared. My real fear is, unless it’s checked – and the sooner the better – England’s chances of the 2018 World Cup will also disappear. You have been warned.”

Looking ahead to the big clash on Sunday, Richard Williams previews the duel between Sol Campbell and Wayne Rooney. “Campbell has a bit of history with United, and not just with Rooney. In April 2003 he flung an arm out at Ole Gunnar Solskjaer during a 2-2 draw at Highbury and was given a suspension that forced him not just to miss the FA Cup final but to watch helplessly as, in his absence, Arsenal’s defence crumbled during the Premier League run-in, destroying their chance of retaining the title. The following August he tussled with United’s Eric Djemba-Djemba during the Community Shield at Wembley and was given a £20,000 fine. That one finished 1-1. Now the leg injury suffered by Thomas Vermaelen at Villa Park on Wednesday night opens up the intriguing possibility that Campbell and Rooney, former England colleagues at opposite ends of their careers, will face each other once again when the two sides meet this weekend.”

Steven Howard fears the worst for Sol Campbell if he plays on Sunday. “Yet Wenger, who moans most of all about the amount of games modern-day professionals have to play, is prepared to give Campbell his third outing in eight days. And this is a man who played his last Premier League match EIGHT months ago for Portsmouth. What it does reinforce is the feeling of frustration Wenger will have experienced in losing out to United for Fulham defender Chris Smalling.”

On the problems at Portsmouth, Mark Irwin reports that “Avram Grant is considering his Portsmouth future.
His decision comes after the club opened talks on selling Younes Kaboul and Asmir Begovic to Spurs. The Daily Mail add a bit more meat to the story. “Avram Grant was locked in crisis talks with Portsmouth on Thursday night after he offered his resignation as manager when two players were sold behind his back. The club were confident that they had talked the former Chelsea boss into staying. But Grant and chief executive Peter Storrie are both fuming after Younes Kaboul and Asmir Begovic were sold to Tottenham without them knowing. The deals were sanctioned by owner Ali Al Faraj’s controversial financial advisor Danny Azougy. Grant had previously insisted that no players would be sold without his approval.”

Jim White analyses the position of Simon Jordan and Crystal Palace after they went into administration and were docked 10 points. “Jordan himself has pumped most of the money he had earned from selling mobile phones into the unequal task of trying to keep a football club going without the revenue stream derived from owning its own playing space. And, while doing so, he seemed to do his best to antagonise everyone with whom he came into contact… And, as he long ago complained, those in charge will do nothing to help him, his club, or more importantly his fellow Palace fans. The irony that he long ago saw it coming and railed against its certainty will be of no comfort. Nor will the fact that he will be proven right sugar the pill. Many will snigger at the predicament of Jordan and his equally hard-to-like manager Neil Warnock. But even as they sink into oblivion, it is worth reminding ourselves that Jordan had a point.”

With the transfer window heading to a close, Tony Cascarino asks if “Premier League clubs are starting to buy British again?” “It’s been my experience that home-grown players worked harder, tackled harder, cared more. Plenty of Premier League managers this season seem to agree. The days when the assumption was that foreign was automatically better may be coming to an end.”

On the actual gossip, The Times Window Watch get the ball rolling with Newcastle joining the race for Victor Moses and Mido closing in on a move to West Ham. In The Guardian we learn that Birmingham don’t want to pay 13 million pounds for Roman Pavlyuchenko.

The Sun report that Anderson is heading to Lyon, Manchester City must pay 15 million pounds for Fernando Gago and Gianfranco Zola wants David Bentley on loan. The Daily Mail also have their rumours, including Sunderland make a cut-price move for Benjani and Gordon Strachan is worried about a big bid for Adam Johnson.

And finally, the Daily Mail have the juicy story of the day. “A Premier League footballer has won a gagging order stopping the public learning about his affair with a team-mate’s girlfriend. The so-called ‘super-injunction’ was granted by a High Court judge under human rights laws. The married England international successfully claimed that exposing his infidelity would be a breach of his right to a ‘private and family life’.”