Why Wayne Rooney must learn that no player is bigger than the club

The dab, which was found wanting at Old Trafford ever since the ‘prodigal son’ had sealed a return back home, came in an almost abundant fashion.

The duo of Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba gave United fans a moment to remember for some years from Saturday’s blistering 4-1 win over Premier League champions Leicester.

And as the Old Trafford faithful cheered what was arguably United’s best performance of the season so far, captain Wayne Rooney looked on from the bench, admiring the quality of football that he was being treated with and wondering as to where it is going wrong for him.

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And its been a downright struggle for the United and England captain so far this season. The 30-year-old, quite evidently is miles away from the player he used to be.

The tally of three assists and a goal against Bournemouth isn’t enough to prove that Rooney has enjoyed this season, as Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City remained unbeaten after a 3-1 win away to Swansea.

The statistics, which although act as a source of veracity for Rooney’s qualities, also go to prove that moments of inspiration in Rooney’s armory are a rarity now.

And barring those moments of magic, Rooney’s play has become too heavy a burden for United to carry.

The second highest goalscorer in United’s glorious history, Rooney’s tally of 246 goals for the club is certainly a thing to admire.

Rooney is just three goals adrift of Sir Bobby Charlton in his bid to become United’s goalscorer ever, apart from already breaking the 1966 World Cup winner’s record of being England’s most capped player and the nation’s highest scorer ever.

Since joining United in 2004 as a teenager, Rooney has now become an icon for the Red Devils and has managed to survive the tumultuous era of David Moyes and the dilly-dong times of Louis van Gaal.

There have been times when it seemed as if United had come close to lacerate their ties with Rooney, but the manner in which the ties where recuperated has probably become a stick to criticize Wazza with.

New contracts at points of time when it seemed as if the club was using money to lure Rooney to stay have, all of a sudden, become very questionable decisions on the club’s behalf.

And rightly so. Someone who contributes as little as Rooney does for United doesn’t deserve the £300k a week wage that Rooney is entitled to as per his contract.

Rooney has lost that yard of pace that he possessed before what Andy Mitten describes as the watershed moment in his career, when an ankle ligament injury had rattled Rooney against Bayern Munich in 2010.

His incisive movement and ability to knock the ball past defenders with vigor is no longer a threatening part of his repertoire.

All that is left, as things stand, is the determination to run after the opposition and remnants of his ability to pick out long passes and switch play from side to side.

And Rooney seems like a mere shadow of his old self, that once witnessed him run around like as if his life was on the line and his physical force as a teenager scary enough to startle a 30-year-old.

The manner in which Rooney has played of late, is reminiscent of a weight-lifter struggling to lift weights, despite trying utterly hard at pulling it off.

Whenever Rooney’s on the ball, his touch and dribbling attributes give an impression that he’s carrying so much burden on his shoulders that he can’t carry it anymore.

Heavy touches and flailing passing have defined the kind of faulty player Rooney has become now, if not his embarrassing showing against Watford two weeks ago and against Iceland in the Euros.

 

And Jose Mourinho’s statement after the 4-1 triumph over Leicester, is although suggestive of the fact that the former Chelsea boss still trusts Rooney, but another valid statement of his proves that Rooney’s style of play isn’t the wanted anymore.

When our main striker is Zlatan, we need fast people surrounding him.

The frenetic nature of the game, which doesn’t suit Rooney, is something that requires dynamic and quicker players to feature up front.

The presence of the likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Jesse Lingard is more encouraging and enticing for a side than that of a sluggish and slow Rooney, who often tends to slow down the tempo of the game when the opposite needs to be done.

And deep down, somewhere in the back of his head, Rooney would know that his best position isn’t what is used to be. And it’s all a part of the inevitable decline that the once feared striker is currently going through.

A vast majority of players in the world have accepted new roles as players, in terms of position and when to feature given the rigours of age and debilitating ligaments.

Rooney, who impressed as a deep central midfielder under Louis van Gaal at the end of last season, has reached that point of his career when this realisation has probably hit him like a bolt of lightning in overcast weather conditions.

And Mourinho, who has already ruled out that Rooney would play as a number six, is more than just unlikely to hand him a deeper role.

With Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera, Morgan Schneiderlin, Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini striving to establish themselves in a towering pecking order, Rooney’s entry to it would act as a source of vexation for Mourinho, who is yet to strike down a proper first team.

And making a case for himself at this point of time seems impossible for the ailing Rooney. Ryan Giggs was forced to change his role from a wiry winger to a playmaker around the 2003-04 campaign, when he was as old as Rooney is now.

It was playing in the midfield that helped Giggs won the PFA Player of the Year award.

Paul Scholes went from a midfielder who moved forward very often to playing the role of a holding midfield player. And featuring in that role saw Scholes leave fans and experts alike dazzled by his exceptional long passing and vision.

Sir Alex Ferguson was the man to realise that Giggs-Scholes duo isn’t capable of delivering as much as it did as 27-year-olds.

The Scot certainly did that for Rooney too, when he began to opt Rooney to play in deeper midfield role months before he hung up his boots.

 

The absence of that old swagger and brutality is acting as a reason for United fans, who revere and love Rooney for what he’s done for the club, to drop him and give him the treatment that he deserves.

And to sound brutally honest, Rooney looks like a MLS player. And before Paul Pogba rejoined, we saw glimpses of how Jose Mourinho would intend to structure his team around the pairing of Rooney and Ibrahimovic.

But the most expensive footballing property in the world currently happens to be the most important player in the side.

If he doesn’t fit into the side, the club, the manager and Pogba himself would be at the receiving end of a lot of stick from fans and the media.

And to avoid this, Mourinho is making sure that the team gets built around the Frenchman, degrading Rooney’s importance to the side.

And for a player who earns £300,000 a week, relevance in the side has to be a key. But at the moment, Wayne Rooney seems like an irrelevance to the side, devoid of the abilities to feature regularly.

If he thinks that the toughest period of his career is well past him, he’s got it blatantly wrong.

Skipper Wayne’s rockiest period in football is fast approaching him and he has tough decisions to make.

Author Details

Kaustubh Pandey

20, Football Writer, CalcioMercato, ThePeoplesPerson, EPLIndex, VAVEL, InsideFutbol. Aspiring Football Journalist. The game's not about life and death, it's something much more than that.

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