Premier League weekend review - At least one Man United legend has some sympathy for Wayne Rooney
The sub-plots off the field were as intriguing as the goal-laden action served up in the Premier League in the last couple of days and here is your alternative review of a weekend that may prove to be hugely significant for a variety of high profile names.
CELEBRATIONS AMID ROONEY’S MISERY
“I felt a sense of sadness watching Wayne Rooney warming the Manchester United bench yesterday. Jose Mourinho made the right call to leave Rooney out against Leicester but it is always difficult to see a career of a great player edging towards a conclusion.”
The sombre words of Manchester United legend Paul McGrath are what you might have expected as the next generation of United stars confirmed they are ready to move on without the skipper who was belatedly left out of the first team line-up by manager Mourinho on Saturday.
It was the inevitable conclusion to a story that has been rumbling for three or four years, with Rooney’s persistently desperate performances ensuring that he has used up the considerable bank of good he had built up during his days as a United hero.
United’s Class of 2016 needed just 45 minutes to confirm Rooney was yesterday’s man, with their four-goal first half display against Leicester seeing Paul Pogba emerge as the club’s new talisman and Juan Mata score the kind of goal the labouring Rooney would never have managed.
The “Rooney of old” has not been with us since 2012 and it means that at the relatively tender age of 30, this goal scoring great is now contemplating life as a back-up player in a United squad that he will only be able to affect during fleeting cameo appearances.
Gary Neville assesses Wayne Rooney dropping pic.twitter.com/7JKvMLWDFq— Man Utd Videos ⚽️ (@ManUtdVines) September 24, 2016
We should not feel sympathy for a footballer pick up around £300,000-per-week , yet equally we should not take pleasure in his fall from grace.
Rooney was once a great player, but his time as Man Utd’s main man has long since passed.
FABREGAS FALLING QUICKER THAN ROONEY
Back in the summer of 2014, Chelsea secured the services of former Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas and it did not take long for the Spanish international to establish himself as the Premier League’s most potent creative midfielder.
A glut of assists in his first season at Chelsea fired the Blues to a comfortable Premier League title triumph, yet the wheels were coming off the Fabregas bandwagon long before he collected his first English league title.
With Chelsea’s rivals hatching plans to halt the cute passing channels Fabregas was operating in, his influence waned dramatically last season and now it seems as if his time at Stamford Bridge is coming to an end.
After he was handed a first Premier League start of the season by Blues boss Antonio Conte against his old club Arsenal on Saturday, Fabregas proceeded to offer up a display that confirmed his days as a top tier Premier League player were over, as he overrun by a quicker and hungrier Arsenal side that stormed to a comfortable 3-0 win.
Cesc Fabregas has played like a real gooner today.— Danny Welbeck (@WelBeast) September 24, 2016
Like Rooney, Fabregas appears to be a footballer who has his retirement age before his time, with this 29-year-old appearing to be suffering from burn-out after starting on his road to the top at such a youthful age in Arsenal colours.
It may not be long before Rooney and Fabregas are being promoted as the new stars of America’s Major League Soccer.
WEST HAM’S LOST IDENTITY
West Ham are desperately trying (and so far hopelessly failing) to rediscover their identity following their move to London’s Olympic Stadium, with this story a classic example of a club losing all sense of perspective in their dream to reach for the stars.
While they may have defied the doubters by attracting crowds in excess of 55,000 to the plush new home, the heart and soul has been ripped out of a club that has spent the last century carving out a niche for itself in London’s crowded football landscape in their old Upton Park home.
Attracting more ‘fans’ - many of them wearing suits rather than West Ham scarfs - does not necessarily mean West Ham are suddenly a club to be feared and after going out of the Europa League and then losing heavily to Watford, Slaven Bilic’s side needed to respond in Sunday’s game against Southampton.
What they served up was further evidence to cement the suspicion that West Ham have made a huge mistake walking away from their historic base and daring to believe they can be bigger and better than they already are.
If Brentford and Scunthorpe are on the London Stadium guest list next season, the folly of this move will have been confirmed.
SIGNING OF THE SEASON?
Liverpool may have been in profit on their summer transfer trading after selling off a host of misfits, but their signing of Sadio Mane from Southampton may prove to be the deal of the season.
While the Manchester giants and Chelsea were splashing the cash with reckless abandon in their pursuit of a return to the top, Liverpool look ready to challenge for the Premier League title after making just minor tweaks to their first team line-up.
Keeper Loris Karius and defender Joel Matip and keeper are vital additions, but it’s the introduction of Mane from Southampton in a deal that could be worth as much as £35m that appears to have transformed their side from pretenders to contenders.
Manager Jurgen Klopp has his side playing a brand of attacking football that is fuelling hope of a Liverpool title challenge, with Mane offering the spark that was missing at times last season.
6 - Sadio Mané has now had a hand in six goals (three goals, three assists) in six competitive appearances for Liverpool this season. Main.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 24, 2016
“Mane will be the signing of the season in the Premier League,” declares Liverpool legend John Aldridge. “He is the player Liverpool have been waiting for and his impact so far has been immense.”
HERE IS OUR INDEPENDENT.IE TEAM OF THE WEEK
Artur Boruc (Bournmeouth)
Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal)
Eric Bailly (Man Utd)
Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal)
Paul Pogba (Man Utd)
Harry Arter (Bournemouth)
Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)
Raheem Sterling (Man City)
Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool)
Heung-min Son (Tottenham)
Sergio Aguero (Man City)