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Wayne Rooney playing worse than under Louis van Gaal, Paul Pogba must be the priority

Rooney playing worse than under Van Gaal, Pogba must be the priority

22/09/2016 at 20:01

Jose Mourinho cannot seem to discover an alchemy between Paul Pogba and Wayne Rooney. The only option is to drop Rooney, and make sure Pogba is carrying out his business in the final third of the pitch, writes Desmond Kane.

It would be fair to say both men are not what each other needs right now.

If Wayne Rooney looks like a ghost of a player who used to wear a Manchester United shirt, Paul Pogba isn't exactly shaping up as the exorcist who is going to drive the demons from him.

The spirit of Euro 2004, of being England's record goalscorer and dovetailing perfectly with Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez in 2009 isn't coming back to life any time soon.

Rooney looks to be in a worse state under Jose Mourinho than he was when Louis van Gaal was running United while Pogba looks utterly lost under the Portuguese martinet, who has a decision to make before he picks his team to face Leicester City on Saturday.

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Let's get back to basics, as every football fan says without being able to explain what that term means. Does Mourinho stick with Wazza in the hope that his captain can rouse himself from the torpor that has characterised his early-season offerings?

Or does he choose to be ruthless and opt for a side that might not sound spectacular, but will allow Pogba to illustrate why United were willing to unearth a world-record £89m fee to fetch him back from Juventus?

You can't go with the status quo. Not only is that the easy way out, but it is also likely to damage United's prospects of piecing together a credible challenge for the Premier League.

At the moment, it is difficult to see where Rooney fits into this United side. Not just in trying to deduce his best position, but on form.

Manchester United's manager Jose Mourinho

Manchester United's manager Jose MourinhoPA Sport

Whether this is down to his own state of mind or Mourinho's lack of clarity is a moot point.

But there is little doubt there are burning issues. Rooney is a national treasure and obsession whether with England or United. He is always under scrutiny perhaps because he is the leading English player of his generation.

Rooney operated as a midfielder against Watford in the 3-1 defeat in the Premier League last Sunday before going back up top in the 3-1 win at Northampton in the League Cup.

He did little in either game to suggest he warrants a shirt this weekend.

Wayne Rooney misses a sitter, social media erupts

Wayne Rooney misses a sitter, social media eruptsReuters

Or according to the riveting BBC pundit Trevor Sinclair, he could be wheeled back to number four as a defensive midfielder because he "no longer has mobility" for forward areas. That is hardly a jaunt for a footballer approaching the OAP stages of his career.

If Rooney goes any further back, he might as well just stuff playing and settle down in the Stretford End with a season book. Never before has the urge to find a role for a player been so great. Paul Ince says he should be number 10, but then again Incey was shown the door by Fergie at Old Trafford for being a "big-time Charlie"

Manchester United's Ander Herrera scores their second goal

Manchester United's Ander Herrera scores their second goalReuters

If he is not seen as some sort of deep, ball-playing quarter-back pinging passes, there is every chance Michael Carrick will be given a start as the sitting midfielder. To complicate matters further, Mourinho has this morning been credited with a liking for Leicester's Danny Drinkwater. Wherever Rooney's future lies, it would not seem to be as part of a United midfield.

In the here and now, Morgan Schneiderlin and Ander Herrera should be chosen to enable Pogba to play off a front two of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcus Rashford, a youngster whose tender years remind you a bit of the teenage Wazza.

This should help to ensure Pogba isn't suffocated by defensive duties. He should be allowed freedom to roam, and damage the opposition rather than being overworked in his own third.

Mourinho's priority should be choosing a side that enables Pogba to show off the wares that made him such a central figure for Juventus in winning Serie A the past four seasons and reaching the Champions League final in 2015.

Rooney being left out in the cold would merely feel like a football mercy killing. Especially if it allows the rebirth of Pogba.

Desmond Kane

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