It is a very difficult time to write about Manchester United Football Club.
Putting Tuesday night's painful exit from the Champions League aside for a moment, Thursday's back pages hardly made for improved reading for fans of the Red Devils.
Talk of one of the club's best players (if not its best) leaving can often be shrugged off as harmless tabloid gossip, but when the same "exclusive" story is carried by nearly every leading newspaper and sports website in the country, it is hard to ignore.
Personally, I don't want Wayne Rooney to leave. Not for £20 million, not for £40 million.
We've had the "Rooney's future in doubt" talk before and seen it quashed in defiance by United's stubborn Scottish manager.
This isn't to hold any delusions about Rooney's current season though.
Having been given plenty of opportunities together, he, in the trequartista role, and van Persie are yet to combine to devastating effect.
Both have had terrific seasons, the Dutchman especially, but their respective success seems separated and detached.
They have been individually brilliant, rather than brilliant together.
Their partnership is nothing like Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke's near-telepathic understanding in the late-90's and early 2000's.
If the team deployed in this week's clash with Real Madrid revealed anything, it's that Sir Alex has little confidence in their existing partnership.
So how to solve the problem?
The Return of the 4-3-3?
As any fan will happily tell you, one of the most successful periods in the club's recent history was during the Premier League and Champions League campaign of 2007-08.
Then, Fergie used Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez as a rotating attacking trio in a 4-3-3 formation with tremendous effect.
In my mind, this tactical way of thinking could be easily reawakened in Sir Alex's mind, with Rooney and van Persie operating as two of the front three, the former as a wide forward and the latter at the top of the formation.
The 4-3-3 allows for a greater fluidity and interchange during games—something that greatly suits the versatility of Rooney and van Persie.
But who to join them?
The more typical wingers Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young are a different breed of player to van Persie and Rooney, and would not suit the roles.
Neither are particularly adept in a more central position due to a lack of versatility and pure technical ability.
Both Nani and soon-to-join Wilfried Zaha could in theory play as a wide forward, but there are doubts over how reliable they would be over the course of a full season.
The former has shown glimpses of genius this term, but those glimpses have been buried among significant periods of mediocre form and inconsistency.
The latter... well, no one yet really knows what to expect from him.
Who to Fill the Role?
Looking elsewhere rather than promoting from within, there are several key attributes any possible transfer target must have.
He must be adept as a versatile forward, with the confidence to roam across the pitch with tireless energy and the ability to play the ball off either foot.
He must also have excellent distribution and vision who is able to play with his back to the goal and link up with those behind him.
Naturally, he should have a keen eye for goal and a scoring knack similar to van Persie and Rooney.
The ability to thrill with the ball at his feet is another virtue that has always been appreciated at Old Trafford.
There is a player who fits the bill in all of these categories—James Rodriguez.
Only last month, the Daily Mail reported that "Manchester United scouts watched Porto and Colombia star James Rodriguez against Rio Ave on Saturday as the club ponder a move."
Rodriguez has had a terrific, if a little injury-blighted, season for the Portuguese side to date, scoring seven goals in 11 league appearances.
He has even drawn comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo for his array of tricks and general playing style (via Daily Mail).
I strongly believe Rodriguez would suit the rigours of the Premier League to a tee and could potentially become a star if he made the move to Old Trafford.
His price is certainly steep though—it is believed by many that a bid of around £35 million would have to be made to persuade Porto to part with one of their most prized assets.
Of course, it might seem like folly to try and solve a problem by throwing money at it, but I, like so many fans of the Red Devils, am a perfectionist at heart.
I long for the day when Rooney and van Persie, two unbelievably talented footballers, can work effectively together on the same pitch.
This article presents a possible theory as to how to try and solve that dilemma. What's yours?
Would you welcome James Rodriguez as a potential signing this summer, or is money better spent in other areas of the pitch?
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