Rooney injury offers Saha an opportunity in last chance saloon
When reading about Wayne Rooney’s injury yesterday, as Manchester United supporter I was first filled with dread and then, surprisingly optimism.
Rooney’s injury means he is likely to miss United’s upcoming Premier League fixtures against Blackburn, Bolton, Fulham and Derby as well as the remaining Champions League group fixtures.
But he will also miss England’s crucial qualifier against Croatia. Rooney’s international performances since Euro 2004 have been mixed, but he has been in scintillating form in recent weeks scoring nine goals in his last nine games. England simply must beat Croatia and I would argue that Rooney will be missed by England more than he will by United.
His injury is also obviously bad news for United. However, with United having already made the last 16 in the Champions League and, on paper at least, winnable fixtures in the league, Rooney’s absence will offer the mercurial Louis Saha a chance to shine in his latest comeback from injury.
Saha’s luck with injuries has been nothing short of shocking. It is telling that whenever I think of Saha, I am reminded of Samuel L Jackson’s character in the film “Unbreakable”! Since joining United in January 2004 at Old Trafford he has managed only 108 appearances – limited mainly by injury.
However, what cannot be doubted is Saha’s talent on the pitch. Despite his limited number of appearances he has still scored 39 goals for United. His aerial ability, link up play, strength and eye for goal marks him out as the perfect alternative to the skills which Carlos Tevez and Rooney possess. Saha’s sublime reverse pass for Patrice Evra which led to Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal against Arsenal epitomises for me the value of having Saha at Old Trafford. As Sir Alex said recently, "Louis does more for the team in the sense of his physical presence, his speed, his two-footedness and is good in the air."
I think everybody at the club knows that if United are to have a successful season, Saha will have to remain fit and confident and that is why the United players have rallied round him. Witness the whole team encouraging him to take the last minute penalty against Chelsea despite him no longer being our regular penalty taker.
Sir Alex has recently, until Rooney's injury yesterday, intimated that Saha will be used predominantly as a substitute. So if Saha wants to prove that he is better than just a sub, Rooney's injury has comme at an excellent time for him.
I have no doubt whatsoever that United will look to purchase another striker in January if Saha fails to capitalise on this latest chance. They simply cannot afford to play the season with only Rooney and Tevez up front. So, unless Saha wants to face the prospect of being fourth choice striker or indeed an exit from the club, he really does need to try and stay injury free deliver the performances everyone knows he can.