Should Wayne Rooney start for United against Liverpool?

Should Wayne Rooney start for United against Liverpool?

As the international break draws to a close, question marks over Wayne Rooney’s future heightens.

The England captain has been in the headlines all week after he was dropped from the starting XI of the national side which faced Slovenia on Tuesday evening.

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After an apparent poor run of form for his club and country it seems Gareth Southgate may have unleashed the first of many blows to come Rooney’s way in the near future. The interim England manager made the ruthless decision to drop his captain for the crucial qualifying clash but it was met largely with approval. It’s for this reason that Rooney’s career with both Manchester United and England has been thrusted into question as there has become a resounding agreement that his time may be up.

Rooney was once one of the brightest young stars and he lit up the world with his attacking prowess, precision and skill and his goal-scoring abilities. He was a world-class talent and has understandably been shown great levels of respect by recent managers. However, the sad reality is that Rooney’s influence on the pitch has dwindled in recent seasons and he’s not the player he once was.

As a result, it’s no longer a given he starts for Manchester United or England and with such a big test for his side coming up, should Jose Mourinho’s captain remain on the bench? Anfield is a tough place to go for any team, but United and Liverpool’s rivalry is on a larger scale and Rooney would be subject to criticism from almost every Merseyside fan. The whole stadium will be urging him to fail but Rooney’s experience wouldn’t let that get to him.

However, his experience doesn’t seem to be enough leverage to keep him in the side. With players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcus Rashford available as a centre-forward option for Jose Mourinho it’s easy to see why Rooney isn’t even considered in that capacity anymore. He’s lost some pace and no longer has the capability to run the wings for a full 90 minutes like he used to so effectively. Rooney prefers to have time on the ball now and considers the space he receives in deeper positions as a privilege.

Yet even as a number 10, he still lacks certain attributes to his game that were once so evident. He’s not got the sharpness of Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard or Dele Alli, all of which have been given the nod ahead of him at times. He still possesses the quality to score at any point in a game though. Like Philippe Coutinho for Liverpool, Rooney has the ability to score from set-pieces and spot-kicks despite remaining invisible for long periods of the game. Teammates have spoken of his ability to control the tempo of the game too but it seems that when he is given that responsibility it works in his favour to play at a slower pace and with more time on the ball.

At Anfield he won’t be given such a privilege. Jurgen Klopp’s men have been drilled to play high-pressing, free-flowing and attacking football and Rooney will be hounded upon within seconds of gaining possession. Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum and Adam Lallana have started to become a formidable unit in Liverpool’s midfield and though Can is likely to come in for Wijnaldum, the young German is just as good, if not better, at squeezing out the spaces for the opposition. As a result, Rooney’s input on the game will be greatly minimised and it’s hard to see how he can have much effect.

The likes of Mata can offer something a little different going forward for United. He has the ability to work in small spaces, using intricate touches and passes to squeeze through gaps and that will be a huge advantage to United if they hope to break through Liverpool’s high-pressing midfield. The attacking talents of Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino are in full force too and with Daniel Sturridge also an option, it may be wise for United to bring in someone like Michael Carrick who can add further protection for the back four. Ander Herrera is also a valuable option in midfield as his engine and off-the-ball hassling could be beneficial in stopping the Liverpool attackers.

All-in-all, there’s not much room for Rooney and although he can still offer a spark from the bench, there may be more preferable options available for Manchester United as the visit their big rivals.

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