London - Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is under
pressure to drop Wayne Rooney, with the captain's clanking performances
emblematic of the team's struggles.
United have lost their last three matches and there is
clamour among supporters and journalists for Rooney to be removed from the
In an online poll by the United fanzine Red Issue, over 99
percent of respondents called for him to be axed.
"Where do you want Wayne Rooney to play? Or should he
be playing at all?" former England captain Alan Shearer wrote in The Sun
after United's 3-1 defeat at Watford on Saturday.
"Not on yesterday's performance, it is fair to
Despite United winning their first three league games,
Rooney's lacklustre displays meant his place was already under scrutiny.
With United having since lost to Manchester City, Feyenoord,
in the Europa League, and Watford, the calls for him to be dropped are getting
Rooney, 30, was rested for last Thursday's trip to
Feyenoord, but he has started all of United's other games under Mourinho.
It was a similar story during Louis van Gaal's two-year
tenure as manager. The Dutchman sidelined Rooney only once, for a 2-0 defeat at
Stoke City on Boxing Day last year.
Also read: Rooney plays where he wants, says Allardyce
David Moyes, Van Gaal's predecessor, was similarly faithful
to the United number 10, whose career he launched at Everton.
But Alex Ferguson lost patience with the England captain
towards the end of his storied tenure.
Ferguson claimed Rooney had asked to leave the club for a
second time in 2013 and he disappeared from view in the dying days of the
Scot's 26-year reign.
Mourinho, whose side host Leicester City on Saturday, has
said he would have no qualms about dropping Rooney.
"I can take him out. No problem for me to take him
out," Mourinho said following United's last-gasp 1-0 win at Hull City last
- Pogba stifled -
As has been the case for much of his career, debate
continues to rage about Rooney's best position.
Never quite a true number nine, but not a classic number 10
either, Rooney was deployed in central midfield by Roy Hodgson during England's
calamitous Euro 2016 campaign.
Rooney has said he is open to the idea of moving into
midfield as his career progresses.
Mourinho appeared to nix that ambition, in the short term at
least, prior to the season.
"For me, Wayne will be a number nine or a number 10 or
a number nine-and-a-half," Mourinho said. "But with me he will never
be a number six, not even a number eight."
Yet in the loss at Watford, Rooney started the game in a
midfield three alongside Marouane Fellaini and record signing Paul Pogba.
Once again he looked off the pace, even after moving into a
number 10 role behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the second half.
A 'highlights' video flagging up his sloppy touches and
wayward passing circulated widely on social media.
"I think playing him as a number 10 is holding back
United," former Arsenal defender Martin Keown said in the Daily Mail.
A knock-on effect of Mourinho's deployment of Rooney as a
number 10 is that several of his team-mates have been prevented from playing in
their preferred positions.
Teenage striker Marcus Rashford, last season's breakthrough
star, started on the left wing against Watford.
Juan Mata and close-season signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan, both
more conventional number 10s, have had to content themselves with wide roles or
places on the bench.
Perhaps most worryingly, in using a 4-2-3-1 system to
accommodate Rooney at number 10 Mourinho has been fielding Pogba as a holding
midfielder, denying him the freedom to attack that he thrived upon at Juventus.
"Until they find the right balance, you won't see the
best of Pogba," said Liverpool midfielder turned BBC pundit Danny Murphy.
Rooney needs only four goals to surpass Bobby Charlton's
United scoring record of 249 goals, but his first-team status is more fragile
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