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Manchester United Player Season Review 2016/17: The Forwards

Manchester United did not have the best of seasons during the 2016/17 campaign which commenced in high spirits with Jose Mourinho replacing Louis van Gaal as the manager, with the Portuguese former Chelsea and Real Madrid manager bringing in Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba as his four summer signings, Pogba being the current world record signing which could be eclipsed and even surpassed this summer if reports are to be believed. Mourinho had instilled the winning mentality into his new club just weeks after be became the manager, pushing for big changes from the start of the season. United started off by beating Leicester City to win the FA Community Shield, the first of many trophies under Mourinho, which turned out the be the case only in the first season.

United started well in the league, winning their first three matches, but a three-match losing streak then turned the season upside down, losing two Premier League matches and one in the UEFA Europa League. United found their feet again, but the ups and downs kept coming. Too many draws in the Premier League, most of them at home became a problem for United, which contributed in their sixth-placed finish, a first for the club who had finished seventh (David Moyes), fourth and fifth (Louis van Gaal) post-Sir Alex Ferguson. The season had a different feeling to it though, something was being built for the future, Mourinho was bringing United back to the helm just like Ferguson did in the 1990’s.

Of course, Rome was not built in a day, but things are changing. United ended the season with two more trophies; the EFL Cup, beating Southampton 3-2 at Wembley at the end of February and the UEFA Europa League, beating Ajax 2-0 in Sweden, more importantly earning a UEFA Champions League group stage place next season, the minimum requirement for Mourinho and his team. The season reviews have been written for the Premier League, EFL Cup, Emirates FA Cup, and the UEFA Europa League now it is the player’s turn to be reviewed and rated, concluding with the forwards.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

The former Swedish international signed for United on a free last summer on the expiry of his contract with Paris Saint-Germain. In the weeks after his signing, United and other supporters were suggesting he was too old to make an impact in the Premier League, something which would come to haunt them from his very first match, despite it being in the FA Community Shield. Zlatan scored a total of 28 goals for United last season and it could have been more, the chances were being created for the veteran striker. United have some over-reliance on Zlatan, which suggested there were other problems which needed to be sorted, which seems to be why Antoine Griezmann was a target earlier in the summer before Atletico Madrid’s transfer ban was kept in place following an appeal with the Court of Arbitration of Sport. Alvaro Morata and Andrea Belotti also seem to be targets for United with one or both likely to arrive at the Theatre of Dreams this summer. Zlatan suffered a season-ending knee injury against Anderlecht at Old Trafford in April, ending his season, could have ended his career. He went under the knife in the weeks following and is now recovering from his injury. United released Zlatan at the end of the season, not choosing to extend his contract as it is likely he will not play for much first half of the season if he returns to action in 2017. He will be training with United in the meantime after being offered the clubs services, which he seems to have accepted. He could play a part on the sidelines for United, maintaining his winning mentality within the squad, which he did to an extent during the past season. Zlatan added three more trophies to his impressive career haul, which ended his United career in high spirits.

Appearances: Premier League: 28, Emirates FA Cup: 1, EFL Cup: 5, UEFA Europa League: 11, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 45

Goals: Premier League: 17, Emirates FA Cup: 1, EFL Cup: 4, UEFA Europa League: 5, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 28

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 8, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 3.5/5

Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney had a good season if you count beating Sir Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record for the club. That is his season highlight. The guy, all due respect in mind, is past it. He offers nothing in an attacking basis, seemingly losing his goalscoring instinct. Once he would have shot from outside of the box, now he passes to the left or the right, losing that eye for a long-range goal. Rooney should have left United in 2010 when he handed in that transfer request, but the club were still somewhat reliant on the player who became the captain for both club and his country, which him being scrapped by England partly due to his poor form on the pitch. Rooney still has his uses, but as an attacking player who was once a figure you thought of when the words Manchester United were mentioned, now he symbolises frustration and a player trying to play in the top flight, despite no longer being all that good. I respect Wayne Rooney for his achievements at Manchester United, winning all major trophies, well apart from the UEFA Super Cup, but in terms of dragging out his career, he should really think about moving on. Gone are the days where he is worth 100% of his weekly wage.

Appearances: Premier League: 25, Emirates FA Cup: 2, EFL Cup: 4, UEFA Europa League: 7, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 39

Goals: Premier League: 5, Emirates FA Cup: 1, EFL Cup: 0, UEFA Europa League: 2, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 8

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 9, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 2/5

Anthony Martial

The Frenchman did not have the best second season at Manchester United. Under Louis van Gaal he was a player who excited, a bit like Adnan Januzaj did during his first season under David Moyes. Anthony Martial was a ‘panic buy’ and ‘waste of money’, a player who would not fit into the Premier League, they said. What did Martial do? He proved his critics wrong. Martial is a class act, but at times under Jose Mourinho, he was not fulfilling his potential at United. Martial was criticised by the manager, left out of matches, but given chances whereby he never actually put the effort in. His year has not been a good one though with plenty of fallout from his personal life, which should not really be affecting his game, but he is only human. Next season should be a better one for Martial. It has already been confirmed by the player’s agent that he will still be at the Old Trafford club, which is a good thing. He should not be written off after just two seasons. He is still a player very much developing in the game.

Appearances: Premier League: 25, Emirates FA Cup: 3, EFL Cup: 3, UEFA Europa League: 10, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 42

Goals: Premier League: 4, Emirates FA Cup: 1, EFL Cup: 2, UEFA Europa League: 1, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 8

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 3, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 3.5/5

Marcus Rashford

The teenager has gone from strength to strength in his first full season at Manchester United. Rising through the ranks last season saw him being propelled into the big time. This season would be a big one for him, playing second fiddle to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a player who would teach him a lot, which was the case. Marcus Rashford spent much of the season being played on the wing, something which the player said he wanted to do in order to better himself and become that forward who could play anywhere on the pitch. He’s not a winger, and in a season where only one striker was utilised up front, playing him out of position was deemed better for his development rather that sitting him on the bench. After the unfortunate injury to Zlatan at the end of the season, it was left to Rashford to lead the line, being the player responsible for scoring the goals. He did just that, not in every match, but he scored some crucial goals, including a free-kick against Celta Vigo in Spain, the goal that won United the semi-final first leg. Rashford, still a teenager has the potential, the determination and the talent to succeed. Next season will be just as big for him as he looks towards earning his stripes.

Appearances: Premier League: 32, Emirates FA Cup: 3, EFL Cup: 6, UEFA Europa League: 11, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 53

Goals: Premier League: 5, Emirates FA Cup: 3, EFL Cup: 1, UEFA Europa League: 2, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 11

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 3, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 3.5/5

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Henrikh Mkhitaryan signed for United last summer, the third signing and one who would excite. The Armenian was wanted by many clubs in the Premier League, many of whom will deny they wanted him based on the fact Jose Mourinho and Manchester United got him. He had a tough start to his season, being hooked at half-time against Manchester City at Old Trafford, then suffering an injury and then sitting on the sidelines waiting for a chance to be given to him. When he got the chance, he paid the manager back. Mkhitaryan scored six goals in the UEFA Europa League, breaking a record in doing so. He has turned into a class act for his club, a player who will keep giving what is needed at the club. Mkhitaryan has the ability to create and score for United, as he had done throughout the season, scoring eleven goals in 40 appearances, which may not be the best, be compared to his peers, he did just as much, if not more than them. The Armenian will be fired up for the new season. New acquisitions are coming, ones to better the team and strengthen the weakened areas, better still, more of that winning mentality, which has been needed for the last three years following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.

Appearances: Premier League: 23, Emirates FA Cup: 3, EFL Cup: 2, UEFA Europa League: 11, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 40

Goals: Premier League: 4, Emirates FA Cup: 1, EFL Cup: 0, UEFA Europa League: 6, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 11

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 4, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 3.5/5

Wayne Rooney: Back to being a blue?

There has been a lot of speculation surrounding Manchester United and Wayne Rooney for months now. It was suggested that the top scorer for both club and country could have been a Chinese Super League place by the end of February when the pre-season transfer window close, but a possible move was seemingly denied with Rooney remaining a Manchester United player. Rooney released a statement on the 23rd February, which said:

“Despite the interest which has been shown from other clubs, for which I’m grateful, I want to end recent speculation and say that I am staying at Manchester United. I hope I will play a full part in helping the team in its fight for success on four fronts. It’s an exciting time at the club and I want to remain a part of it.”

Since the media had their constant stream of stories surrounding Rooney and China ceased by the player himself, something had to keep him in the limelight in that sense, so a return to Everton was now the main story, rather than reporting that the player will remain at United, seeing out the current season and heading to Wembley which saw him lift the EFL Cup after a 3-2 win over Southampton, despite the captain not playing any part of the match. An Everton return could well be possible with Rooney happy to remain in the Premier League and clearly not the main figure at the Theatre of Dreams anymore with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a play five years his senior, upstaging him and scoring 26 goals so far this season, two of which helped win the FA Community Shield and the EFL Cup this season, which is a good start at United for the veteran Swede.

Everton manager Ronald Koeman spoke to Sky Sports at the end of February about Rooney and how he would make his side “stronger”. It is not the first time Koeman has spoken about a United player, praising Memphis Depay late last year with speculation rife of an Everton transfer for the Dutch winger, who ended up moving to France to play for Lyon. An Everton return for Rooney would be a return to the place where his career started as a 17-year-old, scoring that debut goal against Arsenal and seeing the eyes of the world affixed to the teenager, who later moved to United for a £25.6 million fee. Koeman said:

“I still think Wayne Rooney is playing at a high level and he made a good choice staying at Manchester United and in the Premier League. He still has two or three years in front of him to play at the highest level. What will happen at the end of the season, I do not know? In my opinion he’s one of the players who can make Everton stronger than they are now. It’s all about what the players likes, what Manchester United need to do and we are not involved in that project. Every player who we feel can make the team stronger is welcome at Everton.”

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has always stated that Rooney is a player he does not want to get rid of, but the fact he has been benched for more of the season than he has played for the club may suggest otherwise. Words aside, Mourinho does still select the captain to play for the club and has confirmed that he will be involved in the squad to face Bournemouth at Old Trafford on Saturday. In Friday’s manager’s press conference ahead of the first Premier league fixture for March, Mourinho was asked about the speculation linked his captain to Everton in the summer with the Portuguese saying:

“All the talk, for me, makes nonsense. He is selected for tomorrow with possibilities to start or be on the bench. He is an important player for us.”

Mourinho also spoke about Rooney’s future at Manchester United, saying:

“Until the end of the season, 100 percent he is with us. Next season, 100 percent I’d like him to be with us but I don’t give you 100 per cent as always the player is very important. I am the kind of manager who likes his players to be happy.”

Ronald Koeman was asked about Rooney during his press conference on Friday, speaking about the former Evertonian to Sky Sports earlier in the week, the Dutchman played down the speculation by saying:

“I don’t speak any more about Rooney. I have had questions about him several times. He’s a player of United. We will see what happens with him in the future.”

This thing remains that Rooney’s Manchester United career is hanging in the balance. Perhaps Mourinho would like to retain the captain, but with him being frozen out for much of this season, seemingly frozen out for more of next season, depending on who United sign in the summer, of course, Rooney’s decision may well be to leave the Theatre of Dreams after 13 years at the club. Mourinho may well be saying he wants to keep Rooney just to keep the media off his back, as at the end of the day, they can print what they like, which seems to be negative about the top scorer for both club and country, but if Mourinho had the same opinion and actually wanted to get rid of Rooney, despite it being the same opinion of the media, Mourinho would be crucified for saying that and will be public enemy number one once again. I guess playing the game and waiting for things to happen is the best option, if that is Mourinho’s game plan.

Written by Mike Wilson

Six Manchester United players who face uncertain outcomes this season

Manchester United started a new era last summer with the arrival of Jose Mourinho. Four players were brought in by the Portuguese; Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba. All four players have either found their feet or are heading leaps and bounds in the right direction to find them. Zlatan has scored 26 goals so far this season, helping the club to win both the FA Community Shield and the EFL Cup, which in effect secured the third and fourth trophies for the club post Sir Alex Ferguson, or if you would rather, the second major trophy, the first being the Emirates FA Cup won by Louis van Gaal last season. Mourinho has talked about this coming summer with two or three players likely to be brought in with United and Mourinho overseeing a possible flurry of players surplus to requirements heading out of the club.

Luke Shaw

Luke Shaw has had a poor first season under Jose Mourinho. It is fair to say that his injury sustained in the 2015/16 season, which kept him out for the rest of the season, was enough to sideline him both physically and mentally and you could say that it still bears an effect on him today. Serious injuries do take time to return from, but from what is seen from the outside of the club, it does not look too good for the former Southampton defender. Shaw has made 14 appearances this season, the last of which was against Wigan Athletic in the Emirates FA Cup on the 29th January 2017. He was involved in the squad for the 2-1 victory over Blackburn Rovers on the 19th February 2017 but did not get onto the pitch during the match. The fact Shaw was overlooked for the trip to Saint-Etienne with United 3-0 up on aggregate from the first leg at Old Trafford could suggest that his days are numbered at the Theatre of Dreams. A run of matches to get back into the swing of things would do him well, but Mourinho has suggested that Shaw is still behind the likes of Daley Blind, Matteo Darmian and Marcos Rojo in the left-back role. Currently, Shaw is linked to Tottenham Hotspur, according to The Sun, which could be a load of made up rubbish, but who knows. Working with Mauricio Pochettino could inspire Shaw to make his comeback, but it would be the easy way out for him.

Matteo Darmian

Matteo Darmian started his Manchester United career last season under Louis van Gaal and was quickly praised as the second coming of Gary Neville. His form then went south and it went from bad to worse as the season drew on. This season, under Jose Mourinho, Darmian had the chance to restore himself into the starting XI, but the form of Antonio Valencia has kept him out of his favoured position at right-back. The Italian has made 16 appearances this season, most of which have come with him playing in the left-back role, a secondary role Darmian has played before, and seems to have done well as he his placed higher in the squad than Luke Shaw, who was mentioned above. Darmian was linked with a move back to Italy in the summer and again in January and will probably be linked with a possible departure this coming summer, a summer which could see Mourinho add two-three players to his squad in order to create a finishing touch to his Manchester United side, one which will be expected to challenge for the Premier League title, something they seem to have come up short on this season, but mathematically it is still possible, for the time being at least. Darmian is running out of time to restore himself at United if that chance has not gone already. As an Italian international, he will want to play for his country, but seldom playing could hamper that.

Bastian Schweinsteiger

Bastian Schweinsteiger started the season being frozen out of the Manchester United first team and training with the U23 side. Not long after this, Jose Mourinho allowed the veteran German to train with his teammates again, which then saw him being added to matchday squads with him returning to action against West Ham United in the 4-1 victory in the EFL Cup on the 30th November 2016. Schweinsteiger then played another match over a month later, this time in the Emirates FA Cup in the 4-0 victory over Reading at Old Trafford, appearing again in the next round in which United beat Wigan Athletic 4-0 with the German scoring one of the goals. Schweinsteiger then returned for the UEFA Europa League round of 32 second leg clash with Saint-Etienne in which United won 1-0, 4-0 on aggregate. Not playing in the Premier League may well change with the fixture pile up United have at the moment with five matches being played in March, six in April and so far two matches yet to be rearranged against Manchester City and Southampton. Schweinsteiger may not have a future at United longer than the end of the season, but playing a part could well be a good decision from Mourinho who has praised his work ethic, even when he was frozen out of the team. The German confirmed that he would not play for another European club during his career with a move to the MLS seemingly on the cards, maybe China, which would surprise me.

Ashley Young

Ashley Young has played 14 times for Manchester United this season, playing a bit part figure at the club. His last match, the 1-0 victory over Saint-Etienne saw him play in defence, despite the fact he has always been a winger at the club. Jose Mourinho has praised Young a few times this season, also suggesting that he wanted to keep him at the club. He had offers last summer and also in January, then with the Chinese Super League window closing at the end of February, reports surfaced that he was still a target, which again did not materialise. Young’s current contract expires in the summer of 2018, but United do have the option to add another year to that contract, should his services be required at the club. This summer may be the last chance for the club to see any return for the 31-year-old who signed for United from Aston Villa under Sir Alex Ferguson in the summer of 2011. Young has done well to achieve what he has at United, but as he is not one of the first names on the team sheet and with United looking elsewhere to find the players to challenge for the Premier League title next season, it is only a matter of time before the veteran Englishman will be heading away from the Theatre of Dreams.

Adnan Januzaj

Adnan Januzaj has spent the current season on loan with relegation candidates Sunderland under the guidance of David Moyes, who was looking to establish himself in the world of management again after his ill-fated reign of Manchester United following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson in May 2013. Januzaj has made 21 appearances for the North East club, scoring one goal in the EFL Cup against Shrewsbury and seeing red against Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League weeks later. Januzaj needs to impress in order to keep his place in the Manchester United squad open for him, something he is not currently doing whilst playing for Moyes’ Sunderland. The Belgian has played well at times, but consistency seems to be a major problem for him. During the summer, both Januzaj and Andreas Pereira were loaned out, the latter to Granada in the Spanish La Liga, and has done well, despite playing for one of the poorest teams in the league, and seems to have a lot more to give to United, should he return to the club and fight for a first team place in the summer, which is likely. Januzaj seems to have risen early but just does not seem to be putting in the effort which is what previous coaches of the player have said, Warren Joyce for instance, a guy who knows what he is talking about. Mourinho will be looking for something better to complete his Manchester United squad and Januzaj does not seem to be of that ilk anymore, which is a massive shame considering he was lauded with the potential of Cristiano Ronaldo a few years back.

Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney has had a mixed season under Jose Mourinho. He retained the captain’s armband, which suggested that Mourinho rated him and wanted to retain his services in the first team, which he has done, yet has not been afraid to drop the 30-year-old who has been upstaged by a play five years his senior. Gone are the days that Wayne Rooney would be lighting up the Old Trafford pitch, scoring goals for fun and being the key player for United. Rooney may have broken the 40-year goalscoring record held by Sir Bobby Charlton, but that does not bring the Rooney that signed for the club back in 2004 back. Rooney has been long linked with an exit from the Theatre of Dreams. Many thought it could have happened in the summer with his testimonial penned in for August, but nothing materialised. China were interested in the player, but Rooney seemed to have no desire to go there and play mediocre football for a substantial wage, which is fair enough. Everton, his boyhood club are calling though and are very much interested in bringing back their player, something Rooney himself is open to, which could boost the Merseyside club to maybe achieve some silverware in the new season, but that hold no guarantees. Rooney has been a great player for United, but I do not feel he is one of the legends of the club. His record is a great one to have,m especially being the top goalscorer for club and country, but compared to Sir Bobby Charlton, Rooney has a lot to achieve, which could still be done during the remainder of his career, maybe not at United.

Written by Mike Wilson

Who should lead the line against Arsenal?

Manchester United go head to head with Arsenal at Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon, another big match after an international break, which will be the third time this has happened this season. United have previously faced Manchester City, a 2-1 defeat and Liverpool, a 0-0 draw after international breaks this season. Again Swansea City, almost a fortnight ago, United emerged as 3-1 winners of the match, a match which saw Zlatan Ibrahimovic receive a one match suspension after amassing five yellow cards so far this season. Ander Herrera was banned for the Swansea match after getting himself sent off against Burnley the previous week. The suspension of Ibrahimovic will give Jose Mourinho a problem to solve; who will lead the line for Manchester United?

The Portuguese manager has a few options against Arsenal, but will not be able to use the full strength of his side with injuries costing the club at this stage of the season with Antonio Valencia, Chris Smalling, and Eric Bailly all being sidelines, Luke Shaw losing form and playing inconsistent football and other things that seem to have affected the team after their almost perfect start to the season. Mourinho will have three choices to form his attack, one of those will probably play in the left-wing position, effectively leaving the manager with two choices to lead the attack; Marcus Rashford and Wayne Rooney, with Anthony Martial the third choice. Who is the best choice to get the result needed against Arsene Wenger’s side?

Marcus Rashford

The 19-year-old had a great time last season, making his debut against Midtjylland in February after an injury to Anthony Martial, scoring a brace in a 5-1 victory in the UEFA Europa League. His next match, his Premier League debut was against Arsenal just three days later, scoring a brace again with United winning the match 3-2. In total last season, Rashford made a total of 18 appearances for United, scoring eight goals in all competitions. This season, Rashford has made 14 appearances, scoring four goals, which has not shown the player on the same dizzy heights as last season, but he has been playing in different positions in a bid to become the ultimate striker which is something the player said he wanted to become, being able to play on the left, right and through the middle, which will only aid his development, one of the reasons why he has been utilised on the wing recently. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic suspended for the visit of Arsenal, I fervently believe that Rashford needs to be given the chance to lead the line, as last season, he silenced Arsenal almost by himself, and that is something that they will not forget in a hurry.

Anthony Martial

The Frenchman has not led the line for United much this season, playing in his favoured left-wing role which sees him use his pace to beat his man and cut in from the left, scoring some bangers along the way. This season, Martial has scored one goal which came against Stoke City. He is an option to lead the line, but I feel Rashford would be the better option, with Martial on the left-wing providing the support needed on the flanks. Martial has not started the season in great form, which came on the back of a frustrating period for him whilst representing France in the European Championships in the summer, which saw France finish as runner’s up to Portugal. Martial seldom played in the competition, despite the blistering form he had shown since signing for Manchester United on deadline day in 2015. Martial has had his fair share of personal problems, which will affect his form, rising from them and getting back to football. This winter period, which sees a lot of football played between now and the New Year will be important for the Frenchman’s form, which will return to him being one of the best young players in Europe.

Wayne Rooney

The captain was pulled form England duty this week with a knee injury, which needed to be assessed by the club. Rooney may still be a double against Arsenal, but will most likely play against Arsene Wenger’s men, maybe not as a starter, but from the bench. Rooney has something to prove this season; he is three goals away from breaking Sir Bobby Charlton’s longstanding record as the club’s top goalscorer on 249 goals, so getting back to his best will be something Rooney needs to do in order to break that record. Penalties might see him break that record, but I would like to think the player would like to break the record himself, scoring some stunning goals to become Manchester United’s top scorer. Rooney’s form is questionable, the same can be said for his commitment to the cause, in my opinion anyway. Against Stoke City, in the dying minutes of the match, he had the ball at the edge of the box, with a good chance of scoring the winning goal, his instincts told him to pass the ball out to the left, in order to be crossed into the box, which failed. His predatory instincts should have seen him opt to shoot, trying to win the game. That for me shows the decline of the ‘captain’. Rooney is a good option to have leading the line, but with both Martial and Rashford being able to offer the pace and predatory aspects of the game, I would opt to leave him on the bench, bringing him on later in the match to guide United to the win, maybe offer something extra from the bench if United needed experience or skill late on to win the game.

Who would you choose to lead the line against Arsenal on Saturday?

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.

Paul Pogba has unfinished business at Manchester United

Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney seems excited at the prospect of playing in the same team as Paul Pogba and believes the France midfielder has unfinished business at the Old Trafford club. For weeks now, more than I care to remember actually, the rather protracted transfer which may see Pogba return to the club he left four years ago has been rumbling on in the background. The deal has ‘reportedly’ been done for some time, with the player still on holiday at this moment in time. The who saga has become unbearable, especially with all of the so-called experts giving details on the transfer, details which are taken from more reliable sources, rewritten with a slight difference, playing it off as their own information. You also see so many adding things and making the transfer as protracted as possible. Thing is, when it is done, it will be announced, patience does not seem to be a virtue with many today!

On Monday Sky Sports News HQ reported that they understand a world record transfer in the region of £100 million was nearing completion and was expected to be finalised before the start of the Premier League season. The 23-year-old Frenchman left the club on the expiry of his contract in 2012, offered a new one, but clearly rejected it, meaning that a fee would be set by a third-party due to the player’s age at the time. £800,000 was payable by Juventus in the form of compensation – all because he did not establish himself as a first-team regular under the spell of Sir Alex Ferguson, with Paul Scholes returning from retirement and players like Rafael da Silva playing in midfield over Pogba – which to be fair would have annoyed me too, and it did at the time. Since signing for Juventus, Pogba established himself as a first-team player, winning the Serie A title in each of the last four seasons at the Turin club.

Rooney seems to be convinced that Pogba will be determined to show what he can achieve at the Theatre of Dreams during a second spell at the club and that it would be a statement of intent from new manager Jose Mourinho, who has also signed Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan already this season. Rooney, who will play in front of the Old Trafford crowd on Wednesday evening for his testimonial match against Everton spoke to the Daily Mail, saying:

“I hope he is going to want to return to United and prove he’s a top-class player. If he is excited to play for us, we’ll be excited to have him back. I’m sure he’ll feel there is unfinished business, and it would be a very big statement by the club if they can make it happen.”

Rooney, joking about the rather unpleasant moments of Pogba’s first stint at the club, talking about training against him, said:

“The bruises. He was one of those players who, when you trained against him, somehow he would just hurt you. A knee in your side, bump into you, I don’t think he meant to do it, but it just happened. You didn’t even need to get into a tackle. Just go next to him and you’d find an elbow or some other sharp bit. So, if he comes, I’m looking forward to that again! But he had great ability, some of the things he could do, and he’s gone up a level since he left us.”

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mourinho’s second signing of the summer, made an impact on his debut against Galatasaray in Sweden on Saturday, scoring inside four minutes with a scissor-kick goal, is a player Rooney is excited about ahead of the coming season. Given his thumbs up on the signing Rooney is not developing an understanding on the pitch with the confident Swede. Rooney said:

“He’s one of the best strikers, and a big personality. You can see he wants to be a really important player for us. After training, he is already talking about how we can get the best out of each other, you can see he’s got this great work ethic. I think the players feel this is more like the old Manchester United. It’s not just the new signings, we’ve got Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford from last season who made such an impact. We’re in a very good spot now, we think we can challenge for the Premier League, and we want to put a marker down, in the Community Shield with Leicester. I know it’s a one-off game, but we want to show we can win a trophy early on – we feel that’s an important event for us.”

Manchester United are going to be gunning for something this season. For three years now they have been a team which has underperformed, been relatively unsuccessful, except against Liverpool in the Premier League and now could be the time for everything to fall into place. Under Sir Alex Ferguson, United were feared. That eroded away under the ill-fated term of David Moyes and just did not return under during the two-year spell of Louis van Gaal. Under Mourinho, rival supporters seem to be talking about United again, saying how much a joke the club are for bringing the likes of Ibrahimovic to the Premier League, which suggests that it is something they may actually dread this coming season. It has been twelve years since Arsenal, a club which many supporters have been poking fun at United, have won the Premier League. They maintain that they are a UEFA Champions League club and that they are better than United. I suppose you have to be “in it to win it”, but not winning it will show just another abject failure of the club’s fans who are currently happily mocking, and not winning!

copyright: JW