The sight of Wayne Rooney sitting on the substitutes bench on Saturday was a relief to most Manchester United fans. Their club captain has been in poor form so far this term, and it did seem initially that manager José Mourinho was reluctant to drop his famed number ten.
Ahead of Saturday’s clash, Mourinho swung the axe, and while Rooney did make a late appearance as a substitute, the comprehensive win over the defending champions mean few expect to see him back playing a leading role – at least in the Premier League – unless his own performances improve.
All of which also means some immediate speculation over the striker’s future at Old Trafford. Instead of maintaining his key attacking role, former team-mates have suggested that Rooney may work as a deeper influence in midfield; newspaper coverage on Monday morning was all on the same page though – United and England’s star man will stay and accept his new bit-part role. At least for now.
The Mirror reports that Rooney will see out of the remaining two years of his contract at Old Trafford and has “no intention” of exploring potential opportunities in the MLS. The Express believes something similar.
The Sun, meanwhile, reports that Mourinho held a “private” meeting with his player and advised him to focus on improving his own form rather than pointing the finger at some of his team-mates in the wake of “strong words” from the United captain at half time during the Manchester derby.
Mourinho insisted there is “no problem” with Rooney after United’s win over Leicester City on Saturday, while stand-in captain Chris Smalling insisted that the 30-year-old is still their “main” man. Speaking after the game, the defender said:
“He’s often the most vocal and he was the same today. Whatever the situation is, whatever game, whether he is on the bench or playing or whatever, he is always the same. He’s that type of character and that’s something that will never change.
“That’s why he is England’s main man and our main man. There’s no doubt that he’s got still got a lot to offer.”
Rooney is expected to start Thursday’s Europa League clash with Zorya Luhansk and all eyes will be on Mourinho’s team selection for the Premier League game against Stoke City after that on Sunday.
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