Manchester United have organized a testimonial match for Wayne Rooney recently to honor their captain and leader. It was a show of one man, despite the goalless draw in the game itself. Fans granted ebullience to their beloved player, but it looked like a farewell rather than a testimonial match. It felt like the crowd was saying goodbye to their N10. Now, involuntarily, we start to ask a question: do United really need Wayne Rooney anymore?
The England national team captain and all-time top scorer was the Red Devils’ main attacking power for many years, but his performance is getting poor in recent few seasons, as Wayne doesn’t manage to climb back to his top form and reach his best goalscoring tallies. It’s enough to look at his statistics in last 5 seasons.
It’s indisputable, Rooney is not the same as he was years ago. Acknowledging that, first David Moyes and then Louis Van Gaal started to use him as a playmaker. In this new role Rooney contributed to the Mancunians’ play and became an incontestable member of the starting lineup.
However, with Jose Mourinho’s arrival in Manchester, Rooney may have to prove his importance once again. There aren’t special and privileged players for Mourinho, the Special One is Jose himself. He is known with benching team leaders despite enormous pressure from fans and club directors. The most recent examples are two of the best goalkeepers of all time – Iker Casillas and Petr Cech. Both were left on the substitute list and then were forced to leave their clubs after failing to meet the Portuguese coach’s expectations.
Now it’s Rooney’s turn to confront the “special” challenge. Moreover, Jose has already secured himself from unwanted surprises by signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan from Borussia Dortmund. The Armenian international is expected to occupy a place in the starting eleven and it makes Wayne’s future even more complicated. On the other hand, Juan Mata and Ander Herrera are chasing their opportunity to convince the coach of their value.
Maybe this is one of the reasons that led Jose to change Rooney’s position and play him as a forward again. Despite many talks about his effectiveness in the center of the park, Mourinho has made a decision to place the Englishman closer to the opponent goal.
“Maybe he’s not a striker any more. Maybe he is not a No 9 anymore but he will never, with me, be a No.6. He will never be 50 metres from the goal. For me he will be a No 9 or a No 10 or a nine-and-a-half, but with me he will never be a No 6 or even a No 8,” the “Special One” said after joining Man Utd.
Nevertheless, perspectives are not too good in this position either. United have Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Anthony Martial and Memphis Depay upfront, while youngsters like Rashford and Lingaard are pushing hard to gain some top flight football. Keeping in mind Rooney’s age and the fact that he’s starting to lose speed and sharpness, his presence in the starting lineup becomes suspicious.
Maybe Jose is famous for his ability to revive older players, and only the time will show who is right, but for now the club’s transfer policy points to the fact, that Rooney is not an absolute starter anymore. The Red Devils are getting used to the life without their star man.