Well, that figures

Of course it happened this way. The day after I write about how there’s absolutely no possible way that Wayne Rooney can leave Manchester United, Sir Alex goes out and confirms it. By ESPN’s count, Rooney would make the third world-class striker to leave in two years (ESPN says Cristiano Ronaldo is a striker [he’s not] and that Carlos Tévez is world-class [he’s not]). This, however, remains a massive problem for a multitude of reasons.

Clearly, the reason Rooney wants to leave is money. It may not be over a new contract (he’s paid approximately £100,000 per week and would probably ask for £150,000-200,000 in a new contract) but it’s probably over United’s transfer policy during the summer in which Sir Alex did next to nothing.

UPDATE, 20 OCTOBER 2010: Wayne Rooney gives his side of the story. It is, indeed, about money, but it’s also about trophies. Apparently, three straight Premiership titles and a Champions League crown only buys about 18 months of good will from a player these days. I’m not sure what to make of this, other than the fact that neither Rooney nor the board are going to come out of this clean.

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Barcelona’s massive debt

Apparently, Barcelona’s debt is a staggering $563 million.

The soccer end-times are coming for the big teams that are drowning in debt. Mark my words.

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Rooney to leave United?

Wayne Rooney (AP Photo/Martin Rickett/PA)

It’s interesting what happens when a player stops producing at a level to which he was accustomed. It’s interesting that, suddenly, his relationship with his manager is questioned and there is talk of him leaving the team. The player in question is Wayne Rooney, who clearly isn’t himself, and hasn’t been himself for several months. The fault lays with the manager or the player, or perhaps with the media (what with the incessant wondering, by British tabloids, about Rooney’s marital life, which may or may not be fair game).

All of this means that, with Jose Mourinho’s desire for a Drogba-esque striker (and because the man himself isn’t going anyway), Rooney to Real speculation becomes the norm. So, what do we know?

1. We know Rooney’s form has been, to say the least, off. And it has been off for several months.

2. His form may or may not be affected by his straying from his wife.

3. He may or may not have an ankle injury. This is the key point of contention in Wilson’s article, and the key point in transfer talk. Rooney contends that he doesn’t have a lingering ankle injury, while Sir Alex says he does.

4. The point in number 3 may or may not have led to an argument between Rooney and Sir Alex. And players who disagree with Sir Alex are not long for Old Trafford.

5. Rooney wants a new contract, and he wants on the order of £250,000 per week. He is not in a good bargaining position given his terrible form, but he is helped by the fact that his contract ends in 2012. So it’s likely a stalemate, though it’s clear that United and Rooney don’t really want to part ways.

6. All of that leads to this.

The context for the Rooney speculation is United’s terrible financial situation, and the lack of activity after the Ronaldo transfer. Antonio Valencia is a nice player, but he’s no Ronaldo. Same goes for Michael Owen, Nani, Bebé, and Chris Smalling. Sir Alex did get one right when he brought Javier Hernández in from Chivas, but that’s not enough.

No matter what Sir Alex says, there has to be pressure to save money given the club’s staggering debt. I understand selling Ronaldo, and I think it was a coup given the price received. But if United expects to contend for the title every year, it has to plug holes that are painfully obvious. Otherwise, the side will become similar to Arsenal (witness Arsène Wenger’s refusal to buy a keeper this summer). Sir Alex has obvious holes at keeper, center back, holding midfielder, and winger. It’s clear now that he has to rebuild the squad on the cheap.

Which brings us back to Rooney. Sir Alex could sell him for about £40 million, because Real Madrid would pay that in a heartbeat. It would devastate United, but it might be worth it. Even though I don’t think Rooney is going anywhere in January.

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US focusing on 2022 World Cup bid

In the official report, that goes down as a Ronaldo-style laser into the back of the net

The United States withdrew its bid to host the 2018 World Cup in order to focus on the 2022 finals. That means two things. One, that Europe is guaranteed to host the 2018 World Cup (England, Russia, Netherlands/Belgium, and Spain/Portugal are the only remaining bidders). And two, that the US will likely get the 2022 World Cup, which is fantastic. Granted, the latter is only my speculation because I don’t think the US would withdraw unless it got Europe’s support. Then again, since Europe is now competing against itself, who knows if there was a deal made (I do think the US will support England for 2018, with the reverse being true for 2022).

So, what of 2022? The remaining bidders, other than the US, are Australia, Japan, Qatar, and South Korea. Of those, I think Japan and South Korea are longshots at best, simply because they hosted the World Cup in 2002. Australia may or may not have the stadiums (there are five with capacities over 45,000 and eight between 20,000 and 31,000). The weather will be fine, though, which is nice.

I figure Qatar will be the main competition, if only because of the money it has. The problem is the temperature, which is about 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit), during the World Cup. That will necessitate covered stadiums, or very odd game times. Speaking of stadiums, there is only one 50,000 seat stadium in the country, while the others are either 20,000 or 25,000. I still think Qatar will be a serious bidder, but that the US will win out.

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More of the same from Bob Bradley

US manager Bob Bradley

Despite the proclamation of a “new era” by Adrian Healey, the two US friendlies versus Poland and Colombia were more of the same for Bob Bradley’s team.

Tragically, against Poland, that included gifting goals to the opposition and trying inane formations (4-2-3-1) and playing players out of position (Maurice Edu). Everyone knows that Bradley has his favorites, which is fine, but playing Edu at center back is inexcusable. It’s a travesty, really, and yet Bradley saw nothing wrong with it. People should have seen this coming, especially because Bradley is an uncreative coach. He’s very unwilling to experiment, much like the USSF is unwilling to take a chance on another coach (I believe Bradley stayed because neither side wanted to break up, even though both knew it was in their best interests). On the plus side, Jozy Altidore scored his first international goal since 2009.

Against Colombia, Bradley went with a 4-3-3 even though the US doesn’t have the skill to play that formation. Surprisingly, he started Brek Shea (who has amazing potential and should be playing regularly from now on) and Heath Pearce (who probably shouldn’t be playing). Bradley seems indecisive in the midfield, in that he is determined to play Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, and Maurice Edu together. That’s a mistake. The midfield should revolve around the younger Bradley and the US should take advantage of his skills and his endurance. But the coach won’t do that, because Edu is one of his favorites and he would have to be left out (Jones is clearly better than Edu).

On the other hand, Bradley did a better job incorporating the younger players against Colombia. Bradley needs to see what Shea, Holden, and others have to offer. The US is going to need someone to be Clint Dempsey’s understudy in the next Gold Cup and, eventually, the US is going to need a skilled player on the order of Landon Donovan. Bradley clearly sees both of them as security blankets, and both will be fine for Brazil in 2014, but the fact remains that Bradley needs to go against his nature and bring in unfamiliar players.

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Van der Sar isn’t quitting

Edwin van der Sar

According to the always reliable Sun, Edwin van der Sar has rubbished reports that he’s retiring at the end of the season. Perhaps he wants to win the FA Cup (one of the few trophies he hasn’t won yet), as United’s goalkeeping coach has suggested. Or, more likely, he can still perform at a high level for a couple more years.

The best plan would be to buy a successor and split games for a year or two. Van der Sar is nothing if not professional and I’m sure he’d be happy to bring his heir along somewhat slowly. This would allow Sir Alex to go get Igor Akinfeev from CSKA Moscow and give the new keeper time to adjust to England, learn the language, and learn from van der Sar. I still believe Akinfeev is a better choice than Atlético Madrid’s David De Gea.

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Nigel de Jong should be banished

And he should be banished for a long, long time. Perhaps, if there was fairness in life, as long as Hatem Ben Arfa is injured (which is expected to be six months).

De Jong is clearly a dirty player. He makes reckless challenges that injure people. First, there was the infamous kick in the World Cup final. He didn’t even try for the ball. Instead, he kung-fu kicked Xabi Alonso in the chest. Fortunately, the Spaniard didn’t suffer a serious injury, but, in what’s becoming a pattern, de Jong went unpunished.

Nigel de Jong's "tackle" on Xabi Alonso

Now, two days ago in Manchester City’s 2-1 victory over Newcastle, de Jong slid in on Hatem Ben Arfa and broke his leg in two places. Again, the Dutchman wasn’t punished. To make matters worse, the FA decided against taking action (updated on 11 October).

Nigel de Jong breaks Hatem Ben Arfa's leg in two places

Although I guess there is some justice in the fact that he was dropped from the Dutch national team.

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