Of all of the talking points to have emerged from Manchester United’s 3-1 Premier League loss away to Watford on Sunday afternoon, Wayne Rooney’s performance has to be the biggest. In a team that struggled to create, play, defend and function coherently, the club’s captain had arguably one of the worst performances in his 12 years career at Old Trafford, and is facing renewed calls to be dropped by a gigantic proportion of the club’s fanbase on social media.
Naysayers have also been quick to jump to the defence of the man who will surely become the club’s all-time leading goalscorer at some point this season, and his achievements whilst he has played for United are exceptionally impressive. But that shouldn’t distract from the here and now, and the reality is that Rooney simply isn’t playing well enough to either A) lead this side, or B) be a vocal point in it.
The full, harrowing picture of Rooney’s awful performance was laid bare by The Mirror in an incredible article that compiled all of his stats from yesterday’s game. In that eventful 90 minutes, Rooney:
*Had 0 take-ons
*Managed 0 shots on target, and 1 shot off target
*Made 0 successful tackles
*Had nine corners and free-kicks, but only created a chance twice
*Didn’t play one through-ball
*Completed 33 passes out of 40, but only six of those passes were played forward
You get the picture. It’s completely unavoidable; Rooney had a terrible game, and his continued presence in the side as a player that cannot be substituted or dropped for United is starting to become a serious hindrance to Mourinho’s plans. His inclusion, initially as the number 10 in the Portuguese’s favoured (at least during his time at United) 4-2-3-1 created next to nothing, and to then see him being dropped back into midfield as a deep-lying presence, despite his manager’s insistence that he would never play as a 6 or an 8 was deeply unsettling and disappointing.
It’s even more uncomfortable to watch when you consider Paul Pogba’s current struggles to replicate the form that saw United part with £89m for his signature. The Frenchman is struggling to adapt to a formation that is designed to shoehorn Rooney into roles where he is deemed to be most effective, and it isn’t helping get the best out of the club’s new prized asset. Ultimately, Rooney’s form doesn’t warrant such special treatment, and even though United struggled in his absence last week against Feyenoord, his removal from the starting XI on a consistent basis is something that has to happen if United are truly going to progress under Mourinho.