Wayne Rooney’s had a tough few weeks. He hasn’t started any of Manchester United’s last four competitive fixtures, despite featuring as a substitute on each of those occasions, and was dropped for England’s Euro 2016 qualifier with Slovenia. It’s a brave new world for the soon-to-be 31-year old; out of the starting line-up due for both club and country despite being fit and available for selection, but it’s not surprising. Both United and England have arguably better options in the number 10 role, and up front, with Rooney’s form and ability dwindling alarmingly over the last few years.
That’s not to say that Rooney isn’t dealing with the situation in a mature, respectful manner. After Monday’s 0-0 draw with Liverpool, in which he came on as a substitute for Marcus Rashford, he had this to say on his current predicament, via Manutd.com:
“I like to think I can play every game, but obviously it’s the manager’s decision and I respect that. I will be ready when I’m needed. I’m 31 next week and I’ve got a lot of football left.”
When asked how comfortable he was with not starting every game, something he’s not faced during his career except when injured, Rooney replied: “I think it’s football – I’ve started through all my career and this is a new challenge, it’s a new period. Of course I want to play. I just have to keep working to get into the team and I’m sure my chances will come. Then it is up to me to take them.”
What the club’s official site omitted was this quote, which The Mirror picked up on:
“I like to think I can play every game, but obviously it’s the manager’s decision and I respect that.”
The assertion that Rooney wants to believe that he’s available to play every game, despite the length of time he’s been playing top-flight football is something of a worry. Rooney isn’t able to offer anywhere near the same level of energy and hunger that he once did, having started Premier League football when he was relatively young. As such, too many aspects of his game have now become blunted to the extent that he can’t start every game, not when United have better, more effective options that can play in his stead. To be honest, the sooner that Rooney accepts that he won’t be a member of the club’s starting XI until his form improves, or his touch magically returns, the better.