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Five ways Manchester United can cope without Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney will not be leading Manchester United's attack for the foreseeable future, and we're here to tell Louis van Gaal how he can get around that problem.

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Manchester United's world was blown off its axis last night. Wayne Rooney, inspirational captain and good example [Ed: Should this say "terrible warning?"] to all, has knackered his knee and will be missing for an indeterminate period of time. Everybody seems to have settled on about six weeks, so we'll go with that.

This, obviously, is a problem. Rooney has scored more goals than any other United player this season, and though he'll never be the player he was, the player he was meant to be, the player he never became ... he's still useful. With seven goals in his last nine games, he'd even come into something vaguely resembling a decent spot of form.

So what are the club going to do? Here are five options for reshaping United's attack to deal with the loss of their leading armband-wearer.

1. Anthony Martial

The obvious solution is to move Manchester United's most exciting player in from the wing and stick him up front. Based on what we've seen so far, Martial's a very different kind of forward to late-period Rooney; while the French youngster is capable of playing with his back to goal, he's best either running off the shoulders of defenders into space behind, or squaring them up and then dribbling past them. With somebody quick either side of him and a decent passer behind him, that sounds quite ... exciting? It does, doesn't it? That's good.

Although, thinking about it, Rooney's injury means that Martial is essentially the only established forward left in the squad. And central defenders tend to be bigger, stronger, and nastier than fullbacks. So if we move him inside, he's going to get get kicked. Probably kicked hard. Possibly injured. And if he gets injured, then ... oh dear. Perhaps it's safest to leave him out on the wing ...

... although, thinking about it even more, fullbacks are pretty nasty. Branislav Ivanovic is a fullback. Stuart Pearce was a fullback. And they specialise in the kicking of skilful footballers; it's basically what they're for, apart from throw-ins. To be honest, Martial's importance to United is such that he can't really be risked out there, either ...

Only one solution then. Drop him. Immediately. It's not safe out there.

2. Will Keane

Well, it would be nice if he did. But at this stage, he probably won't.

3. One of the other strikers that Manchester United bought in the January transfer window

Fortunately for everybody, the Manchester United's brains trust convened at the end of November and decided that while the thinking behind the small squad policy wasn't necessarily awful — a set first team plus opportunities for young players — it was failing on two levels. One, players in horrible form were being retained due to a lack of replacements. And two, United were sustaining more injuries than the average crusade. It was also pointed out that many of United's greatest successes in the not-too-distant past had come when they had intense competition for the forward places.

As such, they acted. Two forwards were brought in to support Rooney and Martial. One was a quick, versatile attacker able to play anywhere along the front three; the other an older, cannier penalty-box operator, happy to be used from the bench in those moments when United were pressing for a late winner. Neither were marquee signings, but both were bought to address a specific need in the squad, and both made telling contributions over the rest of the season as United ...

... oh, what? Sorry. Drifted off for a second there.

4. Invasive and intrusive surgery

There's an interesting story over on the Manchester Evening News that suggests United have received an offer from China for Rooney. That in itself isn't too much of a surprise: the Chinese Super League is going full Supermarket Sweep at the moment, and Rooney is a giant inflatable banana,* which certainly explains why he wanted to move to City. But what's interesting is that United are, apparently, amenable to the idea. With one condition:

M.E.N. Sport understands United would need to offset his potential departure with an eminent replacement their global partners would approve of to promote their products

Once you've finished weeping for the state of the world, consider this. Wayne Rooney remains United's most marketable player despite the strange journey his performances have taken over the last few seasons. Similarly, Manchester United remain one of the world's most marketable clubs despite etc. and so on. From this we can only conclude that what matters is not what is achieved, but what is seen; that branding is purely about what something looks like, even if that something no longer looks anything like itself.

Cut the faces of the entire squad until they look like Wayne Rooney, is what we're saying here. If people will buy Wayne Rooney shirts when he's playing nothing like Wayne Rooney, then they'll buy Wayne Rooney shirts when he's playing like Matteo Darmian. And if you're reading, Eddy, then you're welcome, and you can expect to receive our invoice soon.

* But oh! Won't his purchasers be disappointed when they peel off the label.

5. Marouane Fellaini

Ahahahahaha. Ahahahahahahahahaha. Ahahahahaha. Ahahaha. Ahahaha. Ahahaha. Ahahaha. Ahahahahahahahahaha. Ahahahahaha. Ahahaha. Ahahaha. Ahahaha. Ahahahahaha. Ahahahahahahahahaha. Ahahahahaha. Ahahahahaha. Ahahahahahahahahaha. Ahahahahaha.

Wait, he's injured too.

Ahahahahaha. Ahahahahahahahahaha. Ahahahahaha. Ahahaha. Ahahaha. Ahahaha. Ahahaha. Ahahahahahahahahaha. Ahahahahaha. Ahahaha. Ahahaha. Ahahaha. Ahahahahaha. Ahahahahahahahahaha. Ahahahahaha. Ahahahahaha. Ahahahahahahahahaha. Ahahahahaha.

Make it stop.