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Wayne Rooney is still the main man at Manchester United, says Andy Cole

Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney has been criticised a lot during the past season and during the summer. The former Everton striker has become the top scorer for England and the most capped outfield player and is close to becoming the top scorer for United, putting Sir Bobby Charlton into second place. Rooney just needs to score three more goals to match Charlton’s 249 goal haul, four to beat that record, which is something that will most probably happen this season. Rooney is a player, who despite being the captain and out of form, has still been a mainstay in the United squad under both Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.

Andy Cole, a former United striker who scored 121 goals in 275 appearances for the Old Trafford club, winning five Premier League titles, two FA Cups, two FA Community Shields and one UEFA Champions League whilst playing for the club from 1994 to 2002 rates Rooney and still thinks he has a massive part to play at United this season. Rooney may not be the biggest name on the team sheet anymore but has still offered a lot to his team. So far this season, Rooney has scored once, against Bournemouth and assisted three times, against Leicester City, Southampton and Hull City, the latter the brilliant assist which saw Marcus Rashford break the deadlock in the final minutes of the match, awarding United all three points. The part Rooney has to play at United this season is a big one says Cole, speaking exclusively to 888Sport, said:

“He is going to play a massive role because it’s Wayne Rooney. People have questioned his position for England but that’s England, man. Of course, he’s going to play a big part but there is competition for places now which is always a key thing for Manchester United.”

Personally, I see Rooney as a player who was once prolific, now occupying a place in the team which could be given to a player with a lot more to give. United have a lot of quality in their squad this season, partly added with Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba arriving at the club this summer. Marcus Rashford is a player knocking on the door for a starting place this season, but due to his age and the fact he is not yet the finished article, I feel he should not be relied on as much as he was last season, which was a good thing for the club at the time. Rashford is a player who could bench Rooney this season, or even next, but there are other players vying for places on the team, which could also do the same. Mkhitaryan is one of those that could play a better role as a number ten, playing behind Ibrahimovic, putting many balls through to the forward in order to see his goal tally rise at the club.

Rooney is the club captain, Mourinho did not change that upon his arrival, which suggests he feels he is the best ‘leader’ at the club, which may well be the case, but I do not feel that being the captain should mean he is an automatic starter in the squad. Whilst Rooney will play a big role this season, it is not something that should have relied upon, last season will tell you that, and the one before. Rooney will be a player with a lot to give, but is what he gives still needed right now, with plenty of other options, which may actually be better ones? Rooney has his loyal supporters and ones who feel the end of the road should be coming for him. Many feel he is overweight and not pulling the strings like he used to, which is starting to become apparent.

Many say that as he has scored, against Southampton, and assisted three other goals in the first four competitive matches of the new season, he is a player that is still giving is best to the game he loves. Looking at goalscoring and assisting stats alone, that may well be the case, but looking back at all the minutes he has played and looked completely out of the game tells another story. This debate on Rooney is far from over, some rate him, others do not. One of those options will grow in the coming years with Rooney heading into a period where his playing days might well be coming to an end.

Read the full 888sport interview with Andy Cole, including his thoughts on how Marcus Rashford can become an Old Trafford legend.

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