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The Reaction To A Man United Win Which Saw Some Very Worrying Signs For Wayne Rooney

The Reaction To A Man United Win Which Saw Some Very Worrying Signs For Wayne Rooney
By Gavin Cooney
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The stalking presence of Jose Mourinho returned to the touchlines of the Premier League this afternoon, and proof of how easily United won on the opening day can be viewed through the prism of the very comfortable afternoon enjoyed by United's medical staff.

It's slightly hard to judge how United will set up for the rest of the season, as next weekend will see the beginning of the After Pogba era, but in this, the last vestiges of the Before Pogba era, we did learn quite a lot about how Mourinho's United will look like.

(That said, Pogba's influence seems to be having an unconscious influence already):

He picked the 4-2-3-1 formation that won him the league and subsequently caused him unprecedented emotional strife at Chelsea, with Marouane Fellaini and Ander Herrera sitting in front of an attacking trident of Anthony Martial, Juan Mata and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. We use trident as Wayne Rooney proved an issue. Quite a big one.


We'll get to that.

Zlatan doesn't take long to realise how crap much of the league is 

The best players who arrive in the Premier League usually take no more than a couple of games to realise how largely awful much of the league truly is. Ruud Van Nistelrooy,  Didier Drogba, Fernando Torres: they all exploded into life upon the realisation that the league provides regular employment to the likes of Titus Bramble.

Their wanton destruction looks set to be replicated by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was quiet until his free-kick was clawed away by Arthur Boruc.


His radar found, a couple of minutes later Ibra lazily sent a ball flying past Boruc to make it 3-0.

Zlatan looks set to join the ranks of the League's flat-track bullies.

Rooney, however, is on borrowed time

Teri, the civil servant in The Thick of It, became the fall guy for the rampant leaking of information within the government department portrayed on the show. Leaking  was deemed a more efficient means of disseminating information as she was considered a "blockage". In the first half of this game, Rooney's role felt like a necessary bit of red-tape: as if it was an administrative necessity to give the ball to Wayne before he examined it and approved of it being spread wide to Valencia.


United's build-up was, at times, woefully slow, and the fact that their two most frequent passing combinations were  Valencia to Herrera (17) and back again (14) betrayed a side probing/floundering. It was noticeable United's opening goal came from a long-ball that bypassed Rooney altogether.

The second half saw Rooney push up further alongside Zlatan, and he had a couple of threatening runs in behind, although he didn't have the pace to capitalise on the opportunities that came his way: Anthony Martial languishing wide-left was all the more conspicuous when a tired Rooney took a tumble in the penalty area, increasingly out of ideas.

When Pogba and Henrikh Ctrl + V become fixtures of this side, and Martial is brought further inside, it's hard to see where Rooney fits into the team. He can perform a number of roles adequately, but his problem is the fact he has teammates who can perform those roles better.

Rooney did score in the second half  - an unmarked header from six yards - proving that he will still be of use, but his overall contribution to United's attack means it is hard to see him keeping his place throughout the season. We're not sure that this is the solution, however:


Mourinho has said that he will not countenance playing Rooney in a deep-lying midfield role, so it looks like the Rooney's influence is on the Wayne.


Luke Shaw looks rusty...

It's perhaps understandable, but Luke Shaw did not replicate his explosive start from last season. Whereas Antonio Valencia was United's chief attacking weapon in the first-half, Shaw rarely broke forward, and showed no signs of striking up the relationship with Anthony Martial he did with Memphis Depay last season.

See his average position throughout the game relative to Valencia's, per FourFourTwo's Stats Zone: 

He was also caught out of position on Adam Smith's goal. Improvement will surely come with time.

..but Eric Bailly looked regal 

Eric Bailly (pronounced Baii in France and Cork) will probably not become the greatest Eric to play for United, but he turned in a mightily impressive performance at centre-back. His passing was impeccably precise, and while he frequently gives Manchester United fans palpitations with his eagerness to dive into tackles, it is from this front-foot defending Bailly derives his strength. It was noticeable the Bournemouth goal came from Bailly being caught slightly deep with an intercept denied by a block some convenient Bournemouth position play.

United signed Bailly ahead of City, and it may prove to be one of the key signings of the season. He looks like a much more solid John Stones.

Juan Mata is determined to be loved 

Juan Mata was given a start following last week's renewal of psychological warfare from Mourinho, with his manager saying beforehand that he knows what he does and does not offer, with the decision resting on whether Mourinho "needs what he does not offer".

Mata was determined to show Mourinho that he can be the hero he both needs and deserves, showing fine persistence in anticipating and subsequently capitalising on a massive cock-up by Simon Francis in the Bournemouth defence for the opening goal.

Mourinho waited until the final few minutes to sub Mata off, disappointingly not subbing him as soon as he had scored.

The likelihood is that Mata will struggle to find a place in the first XI upon Pogba's introduction, but if it comes down to a duel between he and Rooney, he should fancy his chances.

The overall United mood on full-time was optimistic:


See Also: Marc Wilson Has Paid a Serious Price For Mouthing Off About Mark Hughes Online

See Also: 'You Can't Stay An Assistant' - Ryan Giggs Explains Why His Manchester United Exit Was Inevitable



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