THE gossip around the game is that Wayne Rooney has had botox injections to smooth out the crease lines of worry and responsibility on his forehead.
After all, he is now not only the captain of Manchester United but England as well, and a chap must look his best. Style is everything, darling – he’s already had his barnet titivated and his bonce rethatched.
But more than that is still needed at Old Trafford. Rooney’s team requires a facelift at the back before the crowing thousands who salivated over the 4-0 win against mighty Queens Park Rangers can start banging on about winning the Barclays Premier League title.
I kid you not, they have already been shouting about that on the back of a victory on Sunday that showed a lot of class going forward but problems remaining at the back.
Like Jonny Evans, who once again was found wanting at the centre of United’s defence. Teams with good strikers will have noticed this and begun licking their lips.
Sir Alex Ferguson should have begun dismantling his defence at least two seasons ago. Both Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic had lost their commanding presence, and Evans and Phil Jones are nowhere near competent replacements.
Marcos Rojo will need a new partner, because Chris Smalling has yet to convince that he can successfully replace Evans. The latter, meanwhile, has had a poor start to the season, while Jones is injured. So another centre back has to be brought in during the January transfer window if the League title is to be attacked, or a Champions League place secured.
That’s why I suspect Louis van Gaal was muted in his praise of a victory that was gained against a side which rarely created a chance. The one gilt-edged opportunity they had came from an Evans error and should have been despatched, but it is QPR we are talking about.
However, a goal then would have equalised the game and perhaps put the brakes on United. So into the equation comes a player whose arrival at United was overshadowed by Radamel Falcao’s signing, but could be just as important.
Until van Gaal buys at the back again, he will rely heavily on Daley Blind to specialise his role in front of that experimental back four.
He sees the danger early, reads the game well, and is also the kind of player who is very much captain material. He is his manager’s eyes and ears on and off the field, and could, as he settles in, add a few more worry lines for Rooney to get the needle over.
The test will come for United when they face a side who have proven finishers. Strikers good enough to cash in on the errors that have been made at the back so far.
It is little use Rooney and Co scoring freely at one end if they are to concede at the back as they look liable to do.
Next for United comes a trip to Leicester. Should be easy, shouldn’t it? But City have a finisher in Leonardo Ulloa, who so far has hit three goals this season in four games. And he plays up front with David Nugent, another striker who knows how to score.
Neither are big names, but both have the qualities in the box that will test United especially until van Gaal has settled on the four he wants at the back.
Gone, it seems, is the 3-5-2 system. Continuing with that would have made them even more vulnerable. So perhaps Angel di Maria is more important to United than we first realised.
He scored one goal against Rangers and made two others, and will probably need to deliver these kind of statistics again while United sort themselves out at the back.
Getting it right in defence won’t be easy, however. Van Gaal’s blueprint has always been to play attacking creative football.
He has more than enough players who can do that now. But what about the other end? Work and more work needs to be done, and he has to get the right players in the right positions.
If he does, United can prosper because there are less than a handful of really good teams to worry about. If he doesn’t? Some dreams will remain unfulfilled until the cheque books comes out in January.