While I don't think it would have the extreme shipping backlash, I think the double standard would still have been loud and and active.
Because Naruto's with Hinata, all those fans have happily forgotten the fact that Naruto didn't succeed at ANY of his goals. It feels like a happy ending to them, even though it really isn't for the characters.
But if he were with Sakura, then all Naruto's failures and shortcomings would just be added to the reasons why Sakura is so wrong for him. Basically, she would be getting blamed for Naruto's failure to bring Sasuke home, failure to see any real punishment and failure to become Kage within the space of the manga. And any of the dumb things Naruto did aftwerwards (with Hinata and Boruto), would obviously be all Sakura's fault because she's a terrible wife/mother/human/shinobi/etc. Then NH fans would just hate Sakura more, imagining how perfect life would have been with an NaruHina ending. I just don't see a way that Sakura wins. Which sucks.
And yeah - the fact that they had to retcon a whole series makes it glaringly obvious how the story should have ended.
I agree - I always though it would be Sasuke who would die. Or at the very least become the new 'Jiraiya' traveling monk figure — a powerful, fascinating old friend of theirs whose visits to Konoha always meant bad news. But one who lives so far outside of the realm of Konoha's day-to-day that he's nearly forgotten about for half the series. Literally, like Jiraiya. And which is practically the same as being dead - lol.
And yes, you point out just more reasons why Hinata is a waste of space in the story, at NO POINT does she evolve. Not even the death of her beloved cousin could make her change. She doesn't rise up and fill the space left by him in their clan. Her only ambition is to stand beside Naruto and hold his hand. Which is the same as it was before Neji died.
I know people say she had a character evolution in part one, where she stood up to Neji and fought him, all because Naruto inspired her. And yes, it's true. She did rise up there. But I'm not sure it took. Because in the end, she is still completely focused on Naruto. She can't see or do anything for anyone else. Sakura told her to focus on the enemy...but in the end, we know that Hinata never does. So is it a valid character evolution if the character doesn't change in the end?
Depressingly, I feel sorta the same way about Sakura. Except where Hinata never truly evolved, I feel like Sakura's evolution was taken away from her. She ended up with Sasuke, in spite of everything she said, did or felt for Naruto.
Yep, the pro-enders always try to make up excuses whenever you bring up how Naruto never truly succeeded in any of his goals, including becoming Hokage. Even the very one-shot itself, one of the most important days of Boruto's dad's life, was all about Boruto's dad's spawn rather than Boruto's dad himself.
With Sasuke, I always felt that death would actually be too merciful after everything he had done. I feel that him being permanently blinded and crippled would have been a more fitting punishment; knocking him completely off the pedestal he put himself on (and who others did before) to below even an average civilian. We saw through him and Madara that most Uchiha treasured their eyes / Sharingan more than anything. They would gladly sacrifice anything and anyone else in its place. It's not "loving too much" that drove them to commit heinous acts like murdering their best friend and tearing out the eyes of family members to evolve their Sharingan; it was power hunger, greed, and fear of losing their power - their sight / eyes - that they did it. Sasuke was no different. He talked big about "justice" for the Uchiha Clan (first against Itachi, then Konoha itself) but it was ALWAYS about the same thing from when he was a child - getting out of Itachi's shadow and proving himself stronger and more powerful than him.
Hinatatas only "stood up to Neji" after Naruto's yelling. Up until that point, she was on the verge of giving up without lifting a finger due to Neji's words alone. She was already disqualified to be a Chunin right from that first match and, as was mentioned a lot by now, it was never a real learning experience for her that could have been used to actually develop her. Just like ALL her "moments", it came off far more as something meant to placate the screaming NHers and make them shut up for a time especially given such moments are NEVER revisited throughout the entire rest of the story or, again, ever used to truly develop her.
And with Sakura, 2 steps forward, 3-4 steps back sadly. All because of the bias of "higher-ups".