Wayne Rooney was dropped to the bench as Manchester United cruised to an impressive 4-1 victory against defending champions Leicester, leading to suggestions that his time at Old Trafford may be coming to an end.
The 30-year-old has struggled for form and fitness in recent years, with Rooney’s ability to influence the game coming into question by those who feel that his best days are behind him. Jose Mourinho has stated that Rooney remains an integral part of his plans following the win against Leicester, despite failing to make an impression from a holding midfield position for club or country, but the fact that he renegaded on his own vow that the player would never play in midfielder under him would suggest that Mourinho is struggling to find a place for Rooney in the team. Juan Mata’s excellent form, combined with the arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic as Manchester United’s main striker, has limited the number of opportunities that Rooney is likely to have in his favourite positions, and although the official word was that he was rested, it is difficult to see where he fits into Mourinho’s plans.
Betway remain convinced that Manchester United have the quality to mount a serious title challenge by placing them as third favourites behind Manchester City and Liverpool in the latest football betting odds, but they may move forward without Rooney. Their excellent performance against Leicester was packed with fluidity, attacking flair and cohesion, with the balance of the team appearing spot on for the first time since Manchester United hit a blip in form. It was perhaps an ominous sign for Rooney’s future in the team that Ander Herrera, not really known as a holding midfielder, had a fine game alongside Paul Pogba who was able to drive forward and be more of a creative influence on the game further up the pitch. Mourinho also has more suitable options in Morgan Schneiderlin and Michael Carrick to fill a role that clearly undermines what Rooney brings to the table, but the level of performance against Claudio Ranieiri’s side will certainly have given the manager food for thought.
Calls for Rooney to be dropped from the Manchester United side have been growing in volume since the beginning of the season, and although some would argue that his record and stature in the game merits a place in the team, it is difficult to continue persevering with a player who is clearly struggling for form and confidence. Keeping him on the sidelines may lead to a face off between player and manager, but Mourinho has to do what is best for Manchester United, not Wayne Rooney. The same applies to Sam Allardyce who will be watching developments with keen interest as the next round of World Cup Qualifiers are nearing on the horizon; dropping England’s captain would certainly be a bold move for a manager who is new to the job, but doing so may prove to be a blessing in disguise for Rooney.
Being dropped and written off would provide the motivation and fire in the belly for Rooney to prove everyone wrong, and come back stronger than ever before. His cause may be helped if he began to believe that his position is playing behind the striker, or as the main man upfront himself, given that he remains one of the best finishers around. He may have to accept that his poor form is not worthy of first-team opportunities, but if Rooney cannot prove that he can still do it at the highest level, then talks of a move to China or the MLS may become reality.