With an Arsenal downturn predicted & doubts over Rooney’s future at United raised, Robinho heads to either Santos or Benfica as Man City wiegh up deals involving Neymar, De Maria & Victor Moses

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “The whole board of directors [at City] has decided that the best thing is to loan me out. It would be extraordinary to come back to Santos. Playing for Santos would help pave my way to the World Cup. It’s my home, where I know everyone. The first thing to say is that it is a bad moment I am going through. The managers are different here. They decide a system and want you to fit in and it doesn’t matter if you’re tall or short. The manager was honest with me. He told me I was just going to play every other game. I told him that wouldn’t interest me because this is a World Cup year and I need to play.” – Robinho.

Runner-up: “I do not regret the side I put out, I did not have much choice. We had 10 injuries and a very difficult programme coming up. Our selection was simple, take a look at our schedule and you must see we cannot play the same 11 every time. That is for sure. But, if you do not win in such situations, it is my fault. I can only stand by the team I selected in the circumstances. We lost but there was not much room for manoeuvre in terms of players available… I wanted to avoid a replay, that is why I sent on three experienced substitutes all together. And yes, it worked, didn’t it. We have not got a replay.” – Arsene Wenger.

Today’s overview: Over the weekend noise began to swell that Robinho and Manchester City would part company after their victory against Scunthrophe in the FA Cup, with Brazilian club Santos waiting in the wings, and this Monday analysis of the marquee signing is put into sharp focus.

Saddened by the news, Daniel Taylor argued that Robinho’s “impending move will represent a major setback to City given that Robinho’s transfer from Madrid on the day the Abu Dhabi United group took control at Eastlands was supposed to signify the club’s new ambitions. Instead, he has flickered only sporadically in his 16 months in England and is now so desperate to leave he has even informed City that he will waive part of his £160,000-a-week salary.”

Throwing a mini-spanner in the works, Oliver Kay claims that Benfica are challenging Santos in an effort to land Robinho. “Santos intend to offer City first refusal on two of their most promising youngsters, Neymar and Paulo Henrique Ganso, while Benfica, whose bid is less advanced, may offer a deal involving Ángel de María, their Argentina winger.”

Ian Herbert then wades into the debate farting “City chief executive Garry Cook, who will not now attempt to bring in Victor Moses from Crystal Palace, is expected to embark on detailed discussions with Santos today, though Benfica’s interest reflects their ambition as a side with their sights on winning a Europa League and Portuguese championship double.”

Keeping focus on Sunday’s action in the FA Cup, James Lawton makes the case that Arsenal’s exit at Stoke could derail the Gunners season. “This was the third successive season in which Arsenal made an inglorious exit which brought heavy questions about their ability to settle down to some serious accumulation of lost glory… Where does this leave Arsenal? Back, you have to say, in the ether of seriously threatened momentum.”

More doom is placed on the north Londoners by Sam Wallace. “A great chance to win the FA Cup went begging for Arsenal yesterday. It was their elimination to Manchester United two years ago that caused the wheels to come off in their Premier League title bid.”

The Times’ window watch spread their net wide this Monday, reporting that Galatasaray are on the verge of an agreement to sign Giovani dos Santos on loan, Manchester City are tracking Roma’s Marco Motta and that Everton and Tottenham have entered the race to sign Klaas-Jan Huntelaar on loan from AC Milan.

Picking up some of the other transfers shorts, the Daily Mail report that Preston hope to complete the loan signing of striker Danny Welbeck from Manchester United, The Sun bark that “West Ham are set to end James Beattie’s Stoke hell by jumping in with a £3million offer,” while The Mirror print “Argentine star Marco Ruben is due in England today to clinch a £7million move to Wigan.”

Gabrielle Marcotti questions whether Hamburg’s capture of RVN is a good move. “Hamburg’s signing of Ruud van Nistelrooy is an interesting experiment. The Holland striker has already been written off because of injury twice in his career, only to come roaring back. At 33 — and having played only 131 minutes of football this season for Real Madrid — can he defy the sceptics again?… He can score the goals and he can provide some much-needed guidance to Marcus Berg, the gifted Sweden striker, who has failed to deliver after a £9 million move from Groningen.”

Liverpool have made a move in the transfer market, with Andy Hunter announcing that the Merseysiders “have offered Milan Jovanovic a three-year contract at Anfield as they attempt to beat several Premier League rivals to the signature of the Standard Liege striker…Liverpool have attempted to ward off rival interest by offering Jovanovic a free transfer and personal terms of about £10m over three years.”

The Daily Mail spew up the unbelievable rumour that Dynamo Moscow are preparing £7million bid for Liverpool star Yossi Benayoun.

Staying with the Reds, the papers publicise how owner Tom Hicks is set to set the Texas Rangers baseball team for half a billion dollars, yet no extra funds will be pumping into Anfield.

Hicks’s debts in the United States are such that his creditors will have first call on the revenue produced from the proposed sale of the Rangers, making the need for investment in Liverpool as urgent as ever.”

Patrick Barclay attracts the ire of Manchester United supporters by questioning whether Wayne Rooney should sign on at Old Trafford. “Maybe Rooney does not mind the idea of spending his peak years as a source of inspiration to a onceprosperous club; it has, after all, been a good enough way of life for Steven Gerrard at Liverpool. But did Rooney leave Everton because he loved the United badge or because he wanted to take his career to its limits? He may feel that both now apply. But he must work out whether they will remain in tandem as the Glazers’ debts mount, and Ferguson approaches what may prove a messy retirement.”

Support for the idea that Rooney could walk out on Old Trafford arrives from Martin Samuel. “While there are many arguments for Rooney to remain at Old Trafford, it can no longer be among them that Old Trafford is the only place to be. Not when Ronaldo, Kaka, Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta are concentrated at two clubs in Spain. Not when Thierry Henry, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Karim Benzema are the support act… Losing him is unthinkable, but in the current climate Manchester United should know better than to presume loyalty in all circumstances. Remember, in a previous existence, Rooney the red was always going to be blue.”

Staying with United, Alan Hansen raises his belief that Sir Alex would have no qualms burning out Wayne Rooney, at England’s expense, should it be necessary for the Red Devils. “There is no way that Sir Alex will start to think, ‘I need to give Wayne a rest because the World Cup is only six weeks away,’ while United are pushing for trophies in the final weeks of the season. The only thing that Ferguson and Capello share is the heavy reliance of their teams on Rooney’s talents. Any chance that England might have of winning the World Cup this summer will be gone if Rooney misses out on South Africa or if he goes there feeling the effects of his exertions with United.”

Against this backdrop, the Mirror’s David McDonnell shouts “Manchester United will make Wayne Rooney their highest-paid player on £150,000 a week to fend off interest from Spain and placate their rebel fans… Although Rooney still has two-and-a-half years on his current deal, United are ready to hand him a new contract – worth £40m – that matches his status as the club’s most influential player.”

Finally, on discovering the awful punditry of Tommy Smyth courtesy of ESPN’s free weekend in England, Martin Kelner vents against the most annoying commentator in world football. “On his entrances and exits Smyth, who always wears a suit at least one size too small, gives a little vaudeville salute, just in case you were in danger of taking him seriously. He did play a little football in Scotland 50 years ago, but these days he is something of a stage Irishman, with the blarney level turned right up, talking about “the auld onion bag” and so on. He provides the kind of coverage that might appeal to an American audience that sees soccer as a rather comical pastime, taking Mexicans’ minds off the terrible food and stopping Europeans declaring war on each other.”