I apologize for the lateness of my post. We are in Florida visiting family and, frankly, I think we are all a bit out of sorts what with seeing sunlight and getting to wear warm-weather clothes for the first time in what seems like ages. The big news of the day is the confirmation of Wayne Rooney's disasterous contract with Manchester United. If the details are correct - and they've been reported similarly in a number of outlets - then there is little chance that Manchester United will be anything but miserable by the time this deal comes to an end.
Why, you ask, will United, England's biggest name club, be upset about signing England's best player (when healthy) to a long term contract? I'm gald you asked because there are actually a few reasons:
Reason #1 - Age and Aging: No, Wayne Rooney isn't especially old, even for a professional footballer at 28 years-old but there are two things about him that make that number deceiving. He has been playing a large number of matches per year for an unusually long time for a 28 year-old between United's packed schedule and his England duties. Additionally, his style is a very demanding one which means that his 10 years worth of matches has likely been more rigorous than most and the second he starts to lose a step, he becomes much less effective. He isn't likely to decline immediately but it seems likely that we'll be seeing a different player at the end of the deal than the one who has at least shown his best at times this season.
Reason #2 - Cost: £300,000/week is a lot of money for owners who, while they own a very profitable club, aren't backed by gobbs of oil money and are most definitely running the club as a money making venture as opposed to the sort of vanity project that best describes Manchester City, PSG, or Chelsea (the other clubs most likely to throw out salaries like that). If Rooney were 23 or even 25 and about to enter the prime of his career then that amount of money might make sense but it sure looks like United are going to pay Rooney for his past accomplishments here rather than what he's likely to be worth for the next four years.
Reason #3 - Opportunity Cost: Beyond the obvious expenditure of £300,000/week the next question that United presumably considered is "what else could we have done with that money?". With an aging club in need of reinforcements all over the place and a budget that may be large but is certainly not unlimited, the club will have to find money for a healthy amount of transfer activity as well as the wages that go along with attracting players who require big transfer fees. Throw in a premium that it may take to attract top tier players when United (likely) won't/don't have Champions League football to offer up and the downturn in revenue next season due to a lower place in the table and the lack of Champions League revenue and you have to wonder how much money there will be to buy the needed midfielders and defenders to support Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney, and (maybe) Robin van Persie (more on that in a second).
Reason #4 - RvP and Mata?: Manchester United have just set a pretty high bar for what a top tier forward playing for "the best club in England" should earn. van Persie's contract runs until the end of the 2015-2016 season but pays him only £200,000/week while new signing Juan Mata makes only £140,000/week. If you look at the contract as a reward for previous efforts, RvP will be wondering how Rooney is getting paid 50% more than he is after the Dutchman scored 30 goals last season and is outscoring Rooney in the Premier League again this season despite playing five fewer matches. If you look at the contract as a representation of likely future value then you have to think Mata will be wondering how Rooney will be making more than double his wages in a couple of seasons when the Spaniard is in his prime and Rooney is likely slowing down.
With United facing the very real likelihood that they won't be in the Champions League next year, it feels like this was a panic signing and overpay to make sure that the brand Manchester United kept a major brand asset "the best player in England" beyond this summer. It feels like something Sir Alex Ferguson would never have sanctioned even on the off chance that one of his clubs didn't qualify for the Champions League. Frankly, it feels like Liverpool's Andy Carroll signing rather than the move of a savvy club ready to rebound from a rough stretch. For those relatively new to the Premier League, it is worth noting the history of Liverpool. They too were once THE club in England but even the global presence that is Manchester United doesn't guarantee that the Red Devils won't suffer a similar fate to Liverpool. The name and the brand will stay strong but in the face of more effective and well-financed owners (or both in some cases) the on-field results can't be taken for granted because they have been there for so long.
And now on to our regularly scheduled trip around the grounds for all of the most important injury and suspension news for use as you finalize your fantasy line-up for Week 27:
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Crystal Palace v Manchester United - Jonny Evans is the only player definitely out for United as they face a crucial test at Selhurst Park. The test is a big one because Palace have been playing very well and are exactly the sort of defensive unit that could force a nil-nil draw to further United's misery. As an added advantage, Palace are pretty well fully healthy for the encounter.
Arsenal v Sunderland - The big news here is that it appears that Olivier Giroud will be recalled so anyone thinking they'd be picking Yaya Sanogo as a cheap option at forward should check that urge. Elsewhere, there's no real news from the Sunderland side that is likely to have an impact on your fantasy squad unless your name is Mrs. Brown and you forgot that your son will be completing his suspension for that horrible foul on Shane Long.
West Ham United v Southampton - Andy Carroll serves the final match of his ban for his wayward elbow but that's the only real news of note from this one.
West Bromwich v Fulham - A lot of uncertainty on the Fulham side for two reasons - first, there are a lot of players coming back from injury with Maarten Stekelenburg, Kostas Mitroglou, and Fernando Amoribieta the big names and second, there is a new manager in town and we have no idea who he is likely to select even with a fully healthy squad. I'd stay well away from this one if I were you.
Cardiff City v Hull City - Good news for Hull City as all-around menace Gary Medel will miss this one which makes pretty much every one of Steve Bruce's attackers look more likely to score. I'd expect Bruce to name an unchanged group of attackers with Robbie Brady still out and Sone Aluko still working his way back (and likely still on the bench as he does so).
Chelsea v Everton - The early kick-off on Saturday sees John Terry return to fitness while David Luiz conveniently makes way with a knock of his own. No real new news from the Everton side, Romelu Lukaku can't play against his parent club and the usual suspects - Gibson, Oviedo, and Kone are all still out.
Manchester City v Stoke City - The only really important news here is that Sergio Aguero isn't going to make it back quite in time to play in this one. The rest of the news is fairly unimportant stuff.
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Liverpool v Swansea City - Jon Flanagan's spot is in danger with Glen Johnson back in the squad. Given Liverpool's home form and Swansea's questionable form this is actually far bigger news than even Jon Flanagan would have predicted at the beginning of the season. Still no Michu - man, that dude knows how to get injured. How did he not end up at Arsenal over the summer?
Newcastle v Aston Villa - Can Loic Remy's return help the Magpies recover from their dreadful post-Cabaye Sale form? Tiote and Coloccini may also return to help solidify the defense which can't hurt given the recent string of ugly scorelines. Being that the match is at home against a mediocre-at-best Villa squad this will definitely be a test of how far Newcastle have fallen since they failed to keep hold of or replace in any meaningful way their best player in January. I wouldn't be opposed to fantasy managers adding a Villa attacker to the mix on the chance that Newcastle really are that bad now.
Norwich City v Tottenham Hotspur - Not much in the way of important news about this one really. All of Spurs key players are available - which is good - and all of Norwich's key players are also available - which is not so good because, well, look what they've done so far this season. The most important news is that Adebayor will not miss out after a mild injury worry last week.