Falcao and Rooney can save Man United's season
NEWCASTLE v MAN UNITED
(Tomorrow, 3.40am, Singtel TV Ch 103 & StarHub TV Ch 228)
Radamel Falcao and Wayne Rooney need to get to know each other really, really well fast, because they are going to be spending a lot of time working together.
The two footballers of considerable reputation must develop an understanding and mesh their striking talent as one to spark Manchester United, who face a torrid run of fixtures against the cream of the English Premier League over the next couple of months.
They will be without injured Dutch ace Robin van Persie for at least four weeks, and by then, the Red Devils will probably know if they can finish in the top four and play Champions League football next season.
Falcao and Rooney must blossom very quickly, starting with their Premiership clash against Newcastle at St James' Park tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
Five days later, the Red Devils host Arsenal in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, and the Old Trafford faithfuls will desperately hope that the Colombian and Englishman can help keep their dreams of a trophy alive.
Louis van Gaal may well have put Falcao and Rooney together even if van Persie was fit, anyway, because the Dutch hitman has been unable to find form so far.
Star-studded United have struggled mightily and van Persie is now part of the problem at the Theatre of Dreams, not the answer.
What United desperately need is a solution to the quandary they face up front.
None of the top seven in the Premiership's top scorers' list wears a United jersey - Rooney and van Persie are joint-eighth with 10 goals while Falcao has four.
That's not good enough for a team aiming to get back among the elite of European club football and also win silverware this season.
The attacking performances have been, at best, wildly inconsistent.
At one point outsiders for the Premiership title, United have since slipped out of realistic contention.
They may be fourth, but right now the position looks precarious, with Liverpool purring and looking powerful, having recovered from their nightmarish start to the season.
The boos and whistles at certain points of United's 2-0 home win over Sunderland on Saturday provided yet more evidence of a disgruntled crowd.
In the absence of van Persie, manager van Gaal deployed Rooney as the support striker just behind Falcao.
The pair may not have inspired, but there were at least some positives. A decent run of games together will not hurt.
Until Sunderland conceded a penalty and lost Wes Brown to a sending-off, United were firing blanks.
Then a flash of magic saw Rooney hit his stride. It was the English star's brace that clinched United full points.
The 29-year-old must be hoping that his calm finish from the spot, and poacher's goal from close range, will ensure the manager keep him up front.
For too long, Rooney has been deployed in midfield and United have suffered.
Falcao, also 29, was once again strangely average against Sunderland, although there was a difference this time.
He did produce a moment of brilliance with an excellent turn that fooled Sunderland defender John O'Shea and saw the Irishman bring the striker down for the United penalty.
Falcao, who is on loan from Monaco, needs to start firing or he will face an unceremonious exit from one of the biggest clubs in the world.
The terms of his loan deal are such that United hold the option of keeping him beyond this season, or letting him go. The Colombian's current tally leaves United with an easy decision to make.
And Rooney must make the partnership click or risk a quick return to midfield where van Gaal thinks he is more suited in his system.
United fans hope for the best. Van Gaal is keeping his fingers crossed.
His team's chances of playing Champions League football next season and winning the FA Cup in his first campaign with them will probably depend on the two strikers who have so rarely played together up front.
"Florentino perez looks at the world market and wants a team of Galacticos for everyone to admire. Do you understand what i mean? perez is selling an international brand. Vicente del Bosque and (Angel) di Maria are too ugly for Real Madrid. They are different from Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez."
- Former Barcelona coach Carles Rexach Rexach on why Real sold di Maria to Man United
Wayne happy wherever he plays
Manchester United skipper Wayne Rooney has insisted that the trip to Newcastle tomorrow morning (Singapore time) signals the start of a period that could define their season.
The Red Devils travel to St James' Park hoping to hang on to their place in the top four as they push for a return to the Champions League.
After visiting the North-east, Louis van Gaal's team play Arsenal in the FA Cup quarter-finals, before league matches against Tottenham and Liverpool - two clubs also chasing a top-four berth.
"It's the start of a big three weeks for us," Rooney said. "We have done okay in the big games this year, we could do better, but it is exciting for us with these big games that you want to be involved in.
"We can't look past Wednesday. Newcastle away is always a tough game and we have to try to make sure we come away from there with three points."
Much has been made of how Rooney has been used by van Gaal this season. The Dutch manager has often opted to use the 29-year-old in midfield, instead of his usual position as a centre forward.
Rooney played in attack on Saturday and rewarded his manager's decision with both goals in a comfortable 2-0 victory over Sunderland.
The England striker, however, says he is happy to play in either role.
"Everyone knows I've played midfield for the majority of the season but my record shows that I score goals, so I'm not worried about that at all," said Rooney.
"I was pleased the manager played me up front and am delighted to get the two goals, but the victory was the main thing because, after last week, it was important we bounced back.
"Where I play is down to the manager. It's his decision where he sees me playing and I respect wherever he wants to play me."
Mid-table Newcastle hope to record back-to-back victories after Saturday's 1-0 win over Aston Villa all but secured another season of Premier League football on Tyneside.
Top scorer Papiss Cisse secured the win over Villa with his 11th goal of the season, and the Senegal international is confident Newcastle can improve their unimpressive home record against United.
They've beaten the Old Trafford side just once in the last 11 visits, and Cisse said: "The Villa win was an important victory, and sets us up nicely for Manchester United.
"It's a game we need to be ready for. Every player in the squad is up for this game." - AFP.