Off The Pace? The most important season of this star’s Manchester United career

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has been at pains to defend any criticisms of Wayne Rooney since he joined the club.

He recently stated:

‘He is the club captain, he is the manager’s captain, he is the players’ captain.

‘I trust him a lot. I think he’s going to be a very important player for me and no problem for him.

‘He knows that he has to work hard, he knows that but I think that is nothing new in his career. Everything he got I see nobody offer him, he had to fight for it.”

That’s about as emphatic as it gets.

But even Jose must have been taken aback by the sluggishness and sloppiness of Rooney’s performance against Leicester in The Community Shield.

Rooney typically takes 10 games to really get that big frame into shape for the season and Mourinho will hope that the 30-year-old rediscovers his sharpness soon.

But this is a ruthless manager and it’s difficult to argue with the notion that Rooney has been on the wane for some time at Manchester United.

He has lost his burst of pace and the athleticism which used to see him bully the opponent into submission.

That is perhaps why Louis van Gaal brought him back into the midfield last season.

The number 10 position has always been Rooney’s best but he now has serious competition for the role from Henrik Mkhitaryan and even Paul Pogba.

The Armenian played on the right for most of last season but he’s a goalscorer and Jose will surely try him in the hole at times for Manchester United this term.

And while Paul Pogba should start as the more advanced of the “2” in the 4-2-3-1, he too can easily do a job at number 10.

There is still place for Rooney in the starting line up at this point. But this could well be the most important season of his career. Because, with the likes of Rashford and Lingard also desperate for minutes, if Wazza doesn’t find his form quickly he may end up having to find a new club before the end of his career after all.