Jose Mourinho has to call time of death on Wayne Rooney's United career

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Jose Mourinho has to call time of death on Wayne Rooney's United career

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Faizan Qadiri


"ROONEY! defies description! How about sensational? How about superb?" It has been over six years since the day when even the great Martin Tyler was lost for words on seeing a certain Scouser settle a Manchester derby with an overhead kick that justified "The White Pele" tag he had been given.

After the Arsenal game, however, even one of the most loyal Rooney fans I have met refused to utter even a few words in his defence. How could he? Against the Gunners, Rooney's performance was shambolic, his game awareness non-existent, his decision making - let's call it questionable. He looked a pale shadow of the player who had ripped through a better version of the same team as a teenager. He had come up against an Arsenal defence that the current crop would shudder to stand alongside and the then Everton lad had come out on top. 

Yesterday, through, the 31-year-old was dominated by the likes of Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey. He looked much like Gary Neville against West Brom, when the former United man decided to hang up his boots during the halftime break, realizing he couldn't cut it at the highest level at the biggest club in England anymore. Even when Rob Holding, quite graciously, passed him the ball inside the box, instead of putting it on a plate for the onrushing Juan Mata, Rooney decided to go for glory and take on the onrushing Petr Cech from an unlikely angle. 

 © Getty Images

But it isn't just the Arsenal game that is a concern and let's get something straight right now - this is not a witch hunt in the aftermath of the Arsenal defeat. Rooney's performances for a few seasons now have been abject, to say the least and as Mourinho tries to navigate United into a new era, his captain is just deadweight that cannot be carried any longer. His numbers this season have truly reflected his performances. In 22 league appearances, the Englishman has scored just four goals and provided five assists. Even if the Watford game is excluded, where he had just six forward passes and no tackles, he has not really been a reliable player this season. One doesn't have to go back to the to glory days of Sir Alex Ferguson to realize what Rooney had to offer as he finished with 17 goals and 10 assists to his name during David Moyes' short stay at the Theatre of Dreams. 

So if the goals have dried up, where does Rooney fit in at United? Many claim that he was the natural successor to the Paul Scholes throne and now that Michael Carrick is at the end of his run, Rooney could be the man to take up the role of the deep-lying playmaker with his experience and passing abilities. So how good is Rooney when it comes to passing the ball around the park. The numbers, again, don't paint a pretty picture for the England captain. His pass accuracy has, ironically, been the highest this season, but it is still at a lowly 84.4%. Michael Carrick has had an ordinary season as well, by his lofty standard, but he still has an accuracy of 89%. It is this 5% difference, not the "Hollywood balls" that Rooney can pull off, that distinguishes a good player from a great one. One major part of playing the "quarterback" role is to understand and read the game well which is usually reflected in the number of tackles and interceptions made by the player. Again, in Rooney's case, he is not even close to cutting it alongside the very best in the world. Even if he is chosen as an offensive player, Rooney will find it difficult to upstage Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Juan Mata, or even Marcus Rashford and he is not the most effective player to bring on from the bench.

  Stats since the 2011-12 season © SportsCafe

Following the departures of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid and Carlos Tevez to Manchester City in 2009, United were thrown into turmoil on the 19th of October 2010 when Sir Alex announced that the then 24-year-old Rooney had refused to sign a contract with just over 18 months left on his previous one. Knowing fully well that it would be difficult to rebuild the team from scratch again, as he had done in 2004, Sir Alex bowed down to Rooney's demands and made him the then highest paid player in England. Rooney repaid his manager with 34 goals in 43 matches a season later and all seemed well and good before Fergie benched him for the Real Madrid game in 2013 that led to another alleged transfer request. However, the incoming Moyes again needed to retain him as Manchester United got used to life without Fergie.

But times have changed now. United are no longer short on world stars. They have the world's most expensive player and the most expensive teenager on their roster and Rooney just can't compete with the likes of Paul Pogba and Antony Martial. And while both Moyes and Louis van Gaal failed to solve United's Rooney problem, Mourinho was quick to bench him after the Watford game and since then, he has not been able to break back into the team. 

 © Getty Images

But it is not entirely his fault that he is not able to perform well on the pitch. Anyone who has followed Rooney's career from his early days at United will tell you that he needs a few steady games under his belt to get out of first gear and has always been a player who has scored goals in patches. While that is most certainly the case here, he is unlikely to get a run of 5-10 games under Mourinho's "ruthless" stewardship if he doesn't up his game drastically. The Portuguese manager has already taken the first and the most difficult step of removing Rooney from the starting XI, it is now his responsibility to ease him out of the club. 

Rooney has nothing left to prove at United. He is already the greatest goalscorer in the club's illustrious history. He has won literally everything that club football has to offer and if United win the Europa League, the set will be complete. He needs to pick a new club where he is top dog again because at the age of 31, Wazza still has a lot of football left in him and it's just a shame that it won't be at United.

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