Monday, July 10, 2017

The day Jose Mourinho effectively ended Wayne Rooney's glittering Manchester United career...

It is almost 12 months to the day that Jose Mourinho told the world that Wayne Rooney's Manchester United career was effectively over. The date was July 5th, 2016. In an interview that was published by the Daily Telegraph, Jose Mourinho explained why Rooney would not continue to play in midfield, as he had done the previous season on several occasions under Louis van Gaal and for England. Van Gaal wasn't the only United manager to promote the idea of Rooney dropping back into midfield in the latter stages of his career. To many it seemed like a reasonable idea; Rooney has bags of experience, he had been a player United had learnt to rely on. But Jose Mourinho had other ideas.

Following the Portuguese manager's sacking from Chelsea he had plenty of time to mull over his options and to run the rule over the Manchester United squad ahead of accepting his next 'big job', but like those who follow United avidly he must have been shocked at Rooney's drop in performance levels. At one time, not so long ago, you could rely on Rooney not to lose possession cheaply and to find a teammate with a good pass, be it long or short. But Rooney's passing and his touch deserted him, and all too often instead of cheering when Rooney was on the ball, the crowd were left groaning in frustration as he lost it in simple situations and when under little pressure.

Jose Mourinho is a detail man, and a clever one at that and sometimes you have to read behind the lines, but it wasn't difficult to guess where Jose was going when he made it clear there would be no place for United's former talisman in his engine room: “Maybe he [Rooney] is not a striker, not a No. 9 anymore but for me he will never be a No. 6, playing 50 metres from the goal. You can tell me his pass is amazing but my pass is also amazing without pressure.

“To be there and put the ball in the net is the most difficult thing. For me he will be a 9, a 10, a nine-and-a-half but never a 6 or even an 8.”

Just three days before Jose delivered his verdict on Rooney's United future, he had signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic and there was no way he was going to sit on the United bench and everyone, including Rooney knew it.

As the season progressed and despite United struggling to score goals and somehow managing to contrive to draw too many games which should have been won, especially at Old Trafford, Jose Mourinho stood by his guns and he used Rooney sparingly, often from the bench. Whenever the subject of Rooney's future was raised, the United manager said all of the right things, but there was a feeling that Rooney's time as a Manchester United player was coming to an end. Some fans believed that Rooney's main motivation for staying with United for so long was to grab one last huge accolade and that was to become Manchester United's all time leading goal scorer - a record that had been held by Bobby Charlton for 40 years; the old record was 249 goals. Rooney became the club's leading goal scorer away at Stoke City, in a game that finished 1-1.

All players need to be motivated and sometimes they say a move is as good as a rest and following his transfer back to Everton, don't be surprised if Wayne Rooney's name is once again dominating headlines for all of the right reasons.

Manchester United supporters are left with a treasure trove of mostly great memories, aside from his last few seasons with the club. Questions have been asked as to why Rooney didn't move on as he threatened to back in 2013, and before that in 2010 when Rooney was linked to Manchester City whatever the reasons for staying there's no doubt about his contribution to Manchester United; he was a fantastic player who deserved all of the accolades and trophies that he helped to win for the club. His goals were often sublime, none more so than his stunning overhead-kick against Manchester City - an all time favourite of many United fans.

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