At first glance, the figures do not stack up. Wayne Rooney was substituted more times in 2009-10 than he has been this season. He created fewer chances in 2004-05.
He will play roughly the same number of matches that he did in 2007-08. He has already scored more goals than he did in 2004-05 and 2010-11 and as many as in 2007-08 and 2008-09. So what is the problem?
Yet by all purely intuitive reckonings, something is not right. Rooney is not the same player as he was at the start of the season, not the same player as in previous campaigns.
On the wane: Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney hasn't looked the same player this season
Outshone: Sir Alex Ferguson believes Shinji Kagawa (right) was the star man against West Ham at Upton Park
Need a break? Rooney has been heavily linked with a move to French giants Paris Saint-Germain
Sir Alex Ferguson was correct in saying Shinji Kagawa outshone him at Upton Park last week. Kagawa earned United a point. Rooney was largely anonymous.
Ferguson is certainly not a manager who considers headlines when making decisions, but equally, he does not actively seek aggravation at the business end of the season.
He knows there will be consequences when he leaves Rooney out of the starting line-up at home to Real Madrid, or brings him off in order to go for a win.
He knows the message he is sending: to the player, to his representatives, and to any club that may be following Rooney’s fortunes.
So something is awry. When Rooney scored his 11 goals in 2010-11, he created 60 chances. In the year he was subbed 10 times he scored 26 goals. All the numbers in this campaign are trending downwards.
He needs to feature in four of the last five matches if he is not to play his fewest games in any season for United, while his goals total, chances created and times replaced would all sit in the bottom three of his nine years at Old Trafford.
Maybe he is burning out.
It can happen. Michael Owen was English football’s last great teenage prodigy and his career has come to a premature end.
Next year, technically, Rooney is due a testimonial. We still think of him as youthful, but this is a long stretch.
There is no guarantee Rooney has the same ambition or desire as modern marvels like Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, or even Frank Lampard. He looks fatigued at times. If the rumours about conditioning issues are true, it could be argued that he lacks commitment.
He could need a break, a change, a fresh start. Perhaps Paris Saint- Germain can provide it. Certainly, Ferguson will not be rushing to offer an extended contract.
This is a watershed summer for Rooney and much will depend on how he returns in July. Ferguson will be looking for reassurance that Rooney has summered with an eye on the new season.
He will not have forgotten being asked if the club can match Rooney’s ambition. This season, they have proved they can.
If there is any hint that obligation is no longer reciprocated, we are watching the last of him, not just at United, maybe in English football.
No science in selling
Newcastle United are talking £7million, West Ham United £10m, Tottenham Hotspur’s figure is believed to be somewhere in between.
The auction for Andy Carroll is moving in the wrong direction for Liverpool. Far from hearing £17m, the cry would appear to be, how low can you go?
Wrong direction: Potential transfer fees for Andy Carroll are far lower than the £35million Liverpool paid for him
Meanwhile, Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre has been speaking of the new approach under the Fenway Sports Group.
‘I think the fundamental shift around player acquisitions and disposals is that it needs to be more of a science,’ he said. Indeed.
Yet Liverpool are about to discover that when it comes to selling, the process is entirely market driven.
The value is what you can get, and as Brendan Rodgers plainly has no place for Carroll in his team, Carroll does not have the game for the major European leagues and financial fair play — enthusiastically and publicly advocated by Liverpool — will put the brakes on expenditure, a loss of £25m might be the best of it.
So here comes the science bit, Ian: there isn’t one.
So where's this science bit? Liverpool's managing director Ian Ayre
Don't double up on the applause
There was a minute’s applause at Anfield yesterday in memory of Anne Williams, the Hillsborough campaigner who lost her son Kevin in the tragedy and was instrumental in the campaign for justice.
Bolted on to it was the same tribute to those affected by the attack at the Boston Marathon. Why? Anne Williams was an inspiration, so heartfelt applause for her life’s achievement is right; but silence and reflection are the proper responses to events in Boston.
Inspiration: Anne Williams (left) received a minute's applause at Anfield
What is worthy of applause there? Remembrance becomes devalued when it is catch-all. Liverpool’s owners are from Boston and one can understand a sense of affiliation, but do they mark the Hillsborough disaster at Boston Red Sox games now? What do you think?
The clever money fancies Bayern Munich to defeat Barcelona this week, and later remove them from the Champions League. Not if Barcelona bring their A game. Bayern are a fine team. What Barcelona did to AC Milan in the Nou Camp last month, however, was something else.
Numbers just can't add up for QPR
As 58 teams have been relegated from the Premier League, and just 16 have returned at the first attempt, there is no certainty Queens Park Rangers will bounce back.
Shorn of Loic Remy, Andros Townsend and a handful of others, the squad is poor. Success will depend on a complete overhaul and there are too many expensive long-term contracts for comfort.
Players that have not shown enough gumption in the Premier League are hardly likely to welcome the slog of a Championship season. Nothing can be guaranteed.
Standing out: Loic Remy and Andros Townsend have been impressive in an otherwise poor QPR squad
Yet this week, QPR took on a £15m loan to cover ground improvements. They are scouting a 40,000 seat venue in west London, to be developed with an entertainment complex.
NOTHING CHANGES AT CHELSEA...
The £20million signing of Andre Schurrle, a forward for Bayer Leverkusen, would appear to be going ahead. Who wants him?
Who is buying him? Not interim manager Rafael Benitez. He will be long gone when Schurrle becomes a Chelsea player.
Manuel Pellegrini, coach of Malaga and linked to Chelsea, has other suitors and is unlikely to be privy to any transfer plans yet.
That leaves one man. You know who. We all know. And so did Pep Guardiola. This is why he chose Bayern Munich.
Chief executive Phil Beard was one of the men behind the transformation of the Millennium Dome to the O2 Arena.
Far from impending financial catastrophe, Rangers have big plans. As do Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United, Arsenal and even Leyton Orient if some judge will let them.
Every club in London is looking to expand, or explode, until the capital will be bursting with state-ofthe- art stadiums - that can't necessarily be filled.
Queens Park Rangers need a new pitch and a new training ground, but a new stadium? Why? They have averaged less than 18,000 in the Premier League this season, a smaller gate than Wigan Athletic.
And, no, it hasn't been a good year, yet the same could be said of Aston Villa who have pulled in close to 35,000, or Sunderland with 40,000. It is heartening for fans to know the board still have ambition, yet clubs have a natural size it requires years of sustained success to overcome.
Even now, one cannot foresee a time when Manchester City are bigger than Manchester United or Tottenham bigger than Arsenal.
Big plans: QPR chairman Tony Fernandes hopes for a new stadium for the club
It took hundreds of millions and several League titles for Chelsea to outgrow comparisons with West Ham. QPR is the smallest of the capital's Premier League clubs and probably inferior to Crystal Palace and Charlton Athletic, too.
Who will watch them in a 40,000 capacity stadium? Where are these additional 20,000 supporters going to come from? Will they grow on farms?
And while we're at it...
Each week we discover a fresh drawback to the financial fair play rules. Frederic Thiriez, president of the French League, has warned of a talent drain, due to the government tax of 75 per cent on earnings over €1million.
This is a direct result of UEFA's refusal to differentiate between the unique circumstances of countries.
Meanwhile, Manchester City and Chelsea have now signed up for end-of-season tours in 2014, when England manager Roy Hodgson would hope to have players resting in preparation for the World Cup.
Yet with owner investment limited, all clubs will in time squeeze their resources until the pips squeak.
Fear: President of the French football Ligue Frederic Thiriez believes there could be a talent drain in the country
Unsung hero Mick
On November 1, 2012, when Mick McCarthy took over Ipswich Town, the club were rock bottom in the Championship, with seven points from 13 matches, and a goal difference of minus 16.
Ipswich had won a single league game all season, had lost 6-0 at Blackpool and were on a run of straight defeats culminating in a 3-0 reverse at home to Sheffield Wednesday.
McCarthy's impact has been spectacular. A draw with Wednesday at Hillsborough yesterday lifted Ipswich to 14th place, but within three points of Birmingham City in 10th.
Ipswich averaged 0.53 points per game before McCarthy, which would have put them on 23.32 now and bottom by close to 20pts. Since McCarthy's arrival they have averaged 1.61, which, taken over the 44 games played this season, would have worked out at 70.96 and fourth place. McCarthy has done a brilliant job.
He should be in contention for manager of the year.
Manager of the year? Mick McCarthy has done a remarkable job at Ipswich
Some real bright sparks are in charge of football clubs. As the row over the inflation of Premier League parachute payments to relegated teams grows, two chairmen from League Two clubs have seen the way forward.
They are proposing that the Football League refuses to accept relegated teams next season. Brilliant. Until one considers the consequences: a retaliatory measure, in which the Premier League refuses to take the promoted clubs from the Football League, or picks and chooses which ones it wants, before upping the drawbridge, perhaps forever.
A closed shop would sound mightily attractive to the owners of clubs like Stoke City, Sunderland and Aston Villa right now. And to start endangering the competitive existence of those threatened with relegation from the Premier League would be the quickest way to bring it about.
Kasey Palmer had been at Charlton Athletic since he was nine. Rather than sign professional forms, he decamped to Chelsea. Worse, because Chelsea have a category one academy, and Charlton's is category two, the money the club receives in compensation is reduced.
Charlton will bank £200,000 rising to £800,000 if certain goals are met. Palmer, 16, is rated so highly he has already been included in Chelsea's first-team group. He would have been a superstar at Charlton. It hardly seems fair.
Unfair: Charlton's academy status mean they will receive reduced fees from Kasey Palmer's move to Chelsea
Yet, reacting to this blow, Charlton manager Chris Powell says he will now strive to upgrade his club's academy status. Category one offers a high level of contact time with the players, a minimum of 18 full-time staff and an operational budget of £2.5m.
All clubs should aspire to this standard. If this is what inspires Charlton and other category two academies to improve the quality of their youth training programmes, for all the flaws in the system, some very tough medicine is working.
Real Madrid have gone ahead of Manchester United in Forbes table of valuable football clubs. No matter. It is nonsense anyway. United have been on top since 2004, a fact that ignores Madrid's purchase of Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009.
If a club can buy your best player without the help of an oligarch or sheik, but you cannot buy theirs, they are bigger than you. Any other calculation is goofy.
Superstar: Cristiano Ronaldo left Manchester United for Real Madrid in 2009