Man Utd talisman copping his usual unfair flak
Given the current crisis Manchester United find themselves in, it’s not all surprising to see the knives come out for a certain iconic player.
According to the Sun newspaper, 99 per cent of the club’s fans wish to see him axed for the next game against Leicester City, after United slumped to a third straight defeat in all competitions at Watford.
Guessed his identity yet? Step forward United and England’s most popular fall guy, Wayne Rooney.
Rooney always in the firing line
Given his prominence as United’s skipper and the density of his pay packet, Rooney and scrutiny have become bed mates ever since Sir Alex Ferguson’s exit sparked a sharp decline in the club’s fortunes three seasons ago.
The main problem for England’s highest ever goalscorer is that the waters surrounding his best position for club and country have been muddied.
Rooney was always going to slow down and now he’s approaching his 31st birthday his many attributes have paved the way for a transition to a deeper role, first road tested properly by Louis van Gaal last season.
Mourinho’s master plan not being executed
However, Jose Mourinho’s arrival as LVG’s replacement this summer was supposed to halt this transformation in its tracks.
Upon taking the Old Trafford reins Mourinho said: “The players change during the years, their qualities, their characteristics, but something that will never change is the natural appetite to put the ball in the net.
“Maybe he is not a striker, not a number nine any more but for me he will never be a number six, playing 50 metres from the goal. For me he will be a nine, a 10, a nine and a half but never a six or an eight.”
While Rooney may wear 10 and ostensibly is selected to play there just off Zlatan Ibrahimovic, it’s quite clear from his displays that Mourinho’s brief is not being stuck to, with the captain regularly collecting balls in deep positions.
There is a case to be made that he is in part to blame for wandering back in search of the ball, but if Mourinho is as firm a manager as he portends to be, then surely he can cure his skipper’s urge to retreat.
Rooney is contributing more than teammates
Having cost a world-record fee, Paul Pogba’s contribution after a dazzling debut against Southampton has been pretty minimal.
Rooney, who has hit double-figure Premier League goals in 11 of 12 campaigns for United has already scored once and assisted two more this term. Both tallies are double what the most expensive player on the planet has chipped in with so far, albeit in a game less.
Only Anthony Martial, who has been in comparatively desperate form to his brilliant debut season, can match this assist tally.
Meanwhile, the former Evertonian has made more key passes and crosses per game on average than any teammate in the top flight in 2016/17, suggesting his offensive donation is right up there.
Meeting Wayne halfway
Rather than drop his armband wearer and cause more division in the dressing room, a more prudent course of action for Mourinho may be to instead insist that Rooney is banned from touching the ball in his own half against the Foxes.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.