Wayne Rooney’s form continues to be criticised by the press after another underwhelming display in the Manchester derby.
The Times – ‘The more he tried, the worse he got. Why keep him on?’
‘The England striker played to a soundtrack of groans on one of the biggest occasions of the season,’ writes Matt Dickinson.
‘In the first Manchester derby that may have been free of memorable incident – it was not even feisty or niggly – Rooney was part of the problem as he ran around up front in search of his form; perhaps even his youth given that, the day before, he had turned 30. As it turned out, he could not find a pass, never mind a goal.
‘We cannot say we were surprised given that, for all the plaudits for passing Sir Bobby Charlton’s England goalscoring record, and that image-softening BBC documentary, Rooney is enduring a fitful start to his campaign. No other top player does such a passable impression of a mediocre one when he is out of sorts.
‘Yesterday, Rooney struck a cross-field ball that missed its target by 30 yards. He showed a reluctance to shoot. He worked hard, as ever, but the more he tried the worse he got.’
Daily Telegraph – ‘Martial now needs to lead the United attack’
‘If the 170th Manchester derby taught us anything – apart from the fact that these tussles can occasionally turn out to be incredibly dull – it was that the young Frenchman represents Manchester United’s biggest attacking threat just now,’ writes Alan Smith.
‘Going hand in hand with this argument is the realisation that Wayne Rooney’s days as a lone striker might be nearing the end.
‘That is at least how it looked yesterday when United’s captain hardly laid a glove on Manchester City’s back four. With more miles on the clock than most 30-year-olds, Rooney clearly does not have the legs for such an energetic role requiring plenty of pace in the modern game.
‘Martial, however, most certainly does. Not only that, he possesses the strength and ability to quickly develop into a centre-forward of real menace.’
The Guardian – ‘Young talent operates in shadows as Rooney toils centrally’
‘In a match that saw Manchester United’s best player, Anthony Martial, lassoed to the left wing, and City’s most creative central presence, Kevin de Bruyne, also shunted wide, this was 90 minutes of almost-football, of football-related product,’ writes Barney Ronay.
‘Before kick-off the Manchester police could be seen enforcing a strict “no persistent standing” rule inside the stadium. For the more disaffected among United’s support there may have been a temptation to wonder about the effects this restriction might have on Rooney’s afternoon.
‘At a club that has often trusted its bold attacking talents Rooney will be an issue for as long as he continues to play like this as United’s senior central striker. Much has been made of his loss of snap and spring. If he moves, at times, like one of the oldest 30-year-old all-star athletes you’re likely to come across, then this is perhaps because he is.
‘In effect he arrived as a ready-made 16-year-old, fully matures with a long junior career behind him, the moving parts in that stocky frame already well-seasoned by competitive football. Rooney may have hit a milestone birthday last weekend but his component parts – the legs, ankles, hamstrings, muscle fibres – were those of a 30-something player some time ago.’
The Independent – ‘Rooney’s role blunts impact of Martial arts’
‘Nowhere in manager Louis van Gaal’s analysis of why United mustered only one shot on goal in a game which delivered up two was there an admission that Martial, the ideal spear for United’s attack, had been consigned to the margins because of a misplaced faith in Wayne Rooney,’ writes Ian Herbert.
‘The evidence that City feared Martial was right there in front of Van Gaal’s eyes. Two of their three first-half bookings were incurred by players – Vincent Kompany and Fernandinho – who hacked him down to prevent him taking full flight.
‘Yet Rooney led the line, and there was no more graphic paradigm of how much he was labouring than the 71st-minute moment when Lingard located him on the right side on the United box. He shipped the ball square, into nowhere, when the trigger reaction you had expected was a drive towards goal. It is no exaggeration to say he looked like he wanted to get rid of the thing.’
‘The spotlight was all the fiercer because Van Gaal had put him up there, in the eye of the attack and the storm.
‘Rooney has mande fools of too many doubters for any to suggest that, at 30 on Saturday, the striker in him is history, but the very least to be said is that the man is struggling. The only vivid moment he contributed in the first half came when United’s trainer pulled an industrial-sized stapler from a kit bag and applied it to a cut on Rooney’s head.’
The England captain is undoubtedly out of sorts, and the impact Martial has made since his summer arrival has only increased the scrutiny on Rooney.
However, it must be said that in a game which was dominated so drastically by the two side’s defences, few attackers covered themselves in glory – and Raheem Sterling must be counting his lucky stars that he has been on the end of few words of vitriol following his 55th minute substitution.
What next for Rooney? The pressure on both the striker and Van Gaal is only going to intensify while his poor performances continue. With Martial currently exciting the Old Trafford faithful onto their feet, giving Rooney a break might do the 30-year-old the world of good. It would also be interesting to see whether the Frenchman is indeed the solution to all of United’s problems.
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