Wayne Rooney has reached a point in his career where his name is almost synonymous with Manchester United. He ripped defences apart back when he was in his prime, and it would always be a treat to watch him play. In fact, there was one season when he scored 34 goals in all competitions.
With Mourinho’s appointment, a lot of concerns revolved around Rooney, as his future at the club was highly uncertain. Additionally, the fact that Mourinho brought in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, only seemed to emphasise the issue. However, so far, it appears to be like the manager is genuinely trying to give chances to Rooney, in the hope that he succeeds.
His performances so far have been satisfactory – nothing great, but nothing bad either. At this point, almost any United faithful would be hoping that Rooney finds that fire within him which helped United to win three Champions League finals in four years.
It is a risk that Jose Mourinho is taking, because his form has been a debatable topic for quite some time now. Previously, Rooney would wreak havoc as a wide forward, regardless of which flank he was on. Now, his pace is a standing issue, and it is obvious that he does not have the same speed to do so. Rooney does his best as No. 9 central striker, but with Ibrahimovic’s blazing start to his debut Premier League campaign, that spot isn’t an option.
Of late, he has played as the No. 10, where he is not currently showing the speed of thought that can stand against the defences of the opponents. He managed a fine finish against Bournemouth, but when it comes to his ability to do justice to his position, there’s still a question mark.
Another player in a similar situation was dealt with a rather harsh response by Mourinho. Bastian Schweinsteiger is out of the squad and Mourinho doesn’t look like he misses him. When it comes to Rooney, he has been at Old Trafford for most of his footballing career, and thus, he would have to handle the matter more sensitively.
In the game against Southampton, Zlatan and Rooney did seem like they were forming a strong partnership and could potentially become a formidable attacking pair. Moreover, if Zlatan gets injured, then Mourinho would have to choose between Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford – both excellent finishers, but they need to polish their skills further. Martial, especially, looked terrible against Southampton.
This season the Premier League is going to be tougher than ever, and Mourinho’s thinking may be that he needs to provide Rooney with regular starts, in order to keep him sharp and focused.
Having said that, things could also turn into a happy ending if Rooney is able to establish and maintain a good attacking partnership with Ibrahimovic. The Swedish striker might just be the key to Rooney’s troubles. Also, witnessing the pace and skills of the attacker, maybe that would influence and motivate Rooney as well. As far as this season goes, the real challenge for Mourinho will crop up when he faces bigger teams – especially when he faces his arch rival Pep Guardiola’s squad.
That would also be a good test to see how Rooney fares, and also to see if he can summon up some of his old fiery spirit back. For now, however, there’s just hope in the fact that Rooney will live up to Mourinho’s chances and create better winning moments for Manchester United.