Ritesh Gogineni
Editor/Founder of The False 9.

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Wayne Rooney is Jose Mourinho’s biggest problem at the moment

“He (Rooney) understood the reasons completely,” Sir Alex Ferguson said. “Tactically we got it right. We don’t always, but we did then. He understood the reasons for not playing him and that was completely tactical. And I think I was right. Danny Welbeck is the best player we have in terms of operating in a double role.”

This was Sir Alex Ferguson speaking after his last Champions League game against Real Madrid regarding his decision to omit Wayne Rooney from the biggest game of the season. Subsequently, Ferguson even talked about Rooney asking to leave Old Trafford for the second time. It was clear that the Scot then thought, it was best for United and Rooney to part ways and by mentioning Rooney’s request he was only making it easy for the new manager to sell him. Instead, David Moyes made his former protege,the captain and his main man. Even under Van Gaal, Rooney continued to be favoured as the former Everton man had prolonged periods of poor form but still was not dropped.

Then started the midfield experiment, everyone from the United season ticket holder to Sky Sports pundits had this delusion that Rooney would magically become Scholes if he started playing in midfield. Rooney’s Hollywood crosses and his overall work ethic meant that he was decent in midfield against some of the poor sides. But against the top sides or even sides who press and don’t give you space and time, Rooney struggled. Always needing a second touch to release the ball, Rooney was slowing down an already sterile United attack.

Even at the Euros, it was clear that the best England team didn’t feature Rooney as a starter, Hodgson refused to drop his captain. Rooney started all the games in midfield and England bowed out disastrously to Iceland(Rooney was actually one of the better performers, the other English players were horrible).

“Yes, his passing is amazing but mine is also amazing without pressure. Many players have a great pass, but to put the ball in the net is the most difficult. He will be a No. 9, a No. 10, a No. 9.5, but never a No. 6 or a No. 8.”,Jose Mourinho remarked in his first press conference as a United manager when asked about where Wayne Rooney will play. It is clear that Rooney will start the season as United’s number 10 but looking at his performance in the community shield and his chemistry with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, it is hard to see Rooney keeping his spot.

Both Zlatan and Rooney like to drop deep and no longer have the pace to trouble defences. Among the two, it is clear that the Swede is the superior player and that he will be United’s first choice striker this season. In the Community Shield, Rooney was forced even deeper than usual because of Zlatan and had no influence on the proceedings. With Mkhitaryan and Mata in the side who can do a better job than Rooney in the number 10 position, it is hard to see Mourinho continuing with his Captain in the side.

With Pogba’s transfer confirmed, Mourinho might be tempted to switch to a 4-3-3 which leaves Rooney with no chance of starting. Pogba was not at his best for France in a 4-2-3-1 playing a deeper role, his best performances have come in a 4-3-3. Mourinho after his first tenure at Chelsea has primarily favoured the 4-2-3-1 and it looks like he will at least start the season at United with the same formation. Rooney as the number 10 and Pogba as part of the double pivot in a 4-2-3-1 is surely not United’s best team. With Mourinho trying hard get United out of Van Gaal’s influence, playing Pogba in his favoured position and dropping Wayne Rooney might be the easiest way to do it.

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