The question many have asked about football manager Jose Mourinho is that whether the self-proclaimed ‘The Special One’ is afraid of anything. The newly-appointed Manchester United manager has garnered reputation over the years of being someone who will always speak his mind. The two-time Champions League trophy winning manager is certainly not someone who would shy away from making his feelings known about a certain player, referee, rule, manager or anything in particular.
In just over three months at Old Trafford, Mourinho has already made the headlines for the wrong reasons. Mourinho faced backlash for his treatment of Bastian Schweinsteiger who was made to train alongside U-21 side, with one of the football analysts asking for the Portuguese manager’s arrest on grounds of ‘bullying’ the German legend.
In United’s Community Shield encounter against Leicester City, Mourinho again received ire for his ‘unfair’ treatment of Juan Mata, when the Spaniard was brought back just after 30 minutes of play.
That is what one expects from Mourinho in selecting his players: ruthlessness. He is not the kind of manager that will keep a player in the team only because of popular opinions. If he does not think a player suits his style of play, the Manchester United boss will not be afraid to ‘axe’ the player from the team.
Mourinho should treat Manchester United legend Wayne Rooney no differently. So far, United has signed two world class attacking midfielders this season (Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan), with another top rated striker (Zlatan Ibrahmovic). It is essential for the success of United that Mourinho builds a team around these attacking players, and not on already existing Manchester legends.
Mourinho is a manager who believes in keeping a player at his specialist position and does not like to experiment too much like former United manager Louis Van Gaal, who on quite a few occasions played Ashley Young as the main striker. The Portuguese manager has already made it clear that for him Rooney is a No. 10 man and will play only at that position. This means Rooney’s job is going to be linking the midfield and attacking, while also looking for goal scoring opportunities, a job in which he has not been to his best.
Pogba, who joined United a week back from Juventus, displayed his best of abilities at the former club when playing in a 4-3-3 (False-9) formation. Manchester United’s favourite formation of 4-3-2-1 might not bring in the best of the £89 million star. This is where it gets tricky for Rooney to fit in the squad with the likes of Morgan Schneiderlin, Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick (and even Maraoune Fellaini) already vying for the central midfield position, and Ibrahmovic and Marcus Rashford in the central striker position.
It is likely that Mourinho will play Mkhitaryan as a right winger, where he played his best for former club Borussia Dortmund. But, with amazing performances from United’s home product Jesse Lingard in recent times, Mkhitaryan can also be given the No. 10 position where he naturally fits. This again poses a challenge for Wayne Rooney’s position in the team.
The 13-time Premiere League winning team faced a lot of backlash from fans and football pundits in the previous season for their lackluster attacking display. The club managed to score just 49 goals in 38 games with a goal scoring rate of 1.29, which was United’s worst ever in a Premiere League season. It is this area which the club needs to work on this season to improve their stats, and possibly go on to win the league.
Rooney only managed to score 15 goals in 38 appearances in the previous season, a number which does not do him justice. Apart from the goals, Rooney was especially weak in the midfield and did not display his best of ball passing abilities. He also failed to perform to his best of abilities at the Euros, which led to England’s early ouster from the tournament.
In the 2016 pre-season games, the Manchester United captain received backlash from the fans for his continuous poor performances, even though he managed to score two goals (one from a penalty) against Galatasaray.
At this point, it is up to Jose Mourinho to decide whether he should go by the recent performances or by what the fans around the world will react to his managerial decision. History has proven that Mourinho rarely cares for popular reactions and focuses largely on what goes best for his team. It might be true for the curious case of Wayne Rooney as well. If the Manchester United Captain fails to fit in Mourinho’s plan, the ‘Chosen One’ should not be afraid to keep him on bench, or worse, ‘axe’ him from the team.