Wayne Rooney is a player who has provided the fans of Manchester United with many wonderful moments over the past decade or so, although it is becoming increasingly noticeable by the week that he is becoming a nuisance to fit into the side. So far this season we have witnessed the 30-year-old perform in four positions – up front, behind the striker, on the right and even in central midfield. Former United man, Gary Neville, feels that Rooney has an important decision to make over his future and what role he wants to perform going forward.
The number of critics the Croxteth-born man is gathering is growing by the week and it is quite obvious that he would not feature in many Manchester United fans current ‘best eleven’. A lot of supporters have been demanding for the club captain to lose his place in the side for some weeks now and that is exactly what happened this weekend in the clubs 4-1 victory over Leicester City. It was also the best we have seen a United side perform for quite some time, particularly in the first half. Certain people will tell you that it was a pure coincidence, albeit there’s also evidence to suggest that it is not.
Since the beginning of the season, it has seemed like starting elevens are being picked based around the forward, despite there being better options. That is fair enough if he is a player that is in form, but Englishman is not – therefore, despite being captain, he has no right to be on the team. It feels like no manager, at club or country, can decide where Rooney’s best position is nowadays and it is starting to feel like not even the player himself knows. Former United captain, Neville, feels it is important for the man who is also the England skipper to start making some decisions regarding his career soon.
“This is a transition into a new phase of his career, where he’s potentially got to play a different way. No player at 22 is the same at 32, 33, 34. If you look at Paul Scholes, he went from a marauding midfield to a holding midfield player, Steven Gerrard the same, Giggs from a flying winger to a central midfield player.
“Rooney’s going through that period now. I think potentially there will be a little bit of relief for him, in the sense of the scrutiny around him in the last week.”
The Sky Sports pundit also touched on the fact that Rooney may have to get used to sitting in the Old Trafford dugout on the bench every so often, should he remain at the club.
“It’s how Wayne Rooney reacts to it. There will come a point where he will have to make that decision of either playing every week or coming to that point in his career where he may come out of the team one week, then go back in and adapt to that type of position.”
United boss, Jose Mourinho, has underplayed the fact his captain was dropped at the weekend, although Neville believes that it is a much bigger deal than he was letting off. However, the ex-Valencia manager believes Rooney is not the sole problem among the United set-up and that many players have a point to prove, including some of those that played a part in the impressive victory against the champions at Old Trafford on Saturday.
“It is a big call to leave Rooney out. I know Jose said it’s a normal thing, but it is a big call. He’s a big personality, it brings headlines. If United lose today it comes with criticism. The fact they’ve won 4-1 it’s the perfect day for Jose Mourinho.
“It’s become a distraction away from the main issue, and that is that no individual causes a whole team to play poorly. I know there will be those today who will react to the win and say: ‘Look how well we played without Rooney.
“But that’s not the reality of it. There’s a long way to go yet for a lot of these Manchester United players who played well today.”
On a personal note, I wholeheartedly agree that Rooney is not part of United’s best eleven, nor is he, at this moment in time, doing enough to put himself into contention to get a starting spot. But, personally I will not fall into the trap of constantly slating and calling the man on social media – he has his flaws and he needs to improve and I agree with Neville, he needs to decide what role he wants to play going into the latter stages of his career. He is a club legend, though, he has done many good things for a lot of United sides over the years. There is a large question splattered over the attackers head and that is ‘is he finished at the highest level and at a top club like Manchester United?’ Unfortunately, the answer to that right now would be – yes. The next few months will be telling and perhaps dropping the number ten will be a reality check for him.