Manchester United slumped to a 2-1 defeat to Fenerbahce, but did Wayne Rooney’s goal raise an interesting possibility? Michael Graham thinks so.
Wayne Rooney’s apparent decline has been a talking point for what feels like forever now, with it often being cited as a key factor behind Manchester United’s struggles since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson.
The striker-come-midfielder-come-whatever scored a brilliant goal as Man Utd fell to a 2-1 defeat in Fenerbahce, to offer a timely reminder of the quality he possesses.
There is another possibility to personal decline,however, when discussing Rooney’s struggles. What if, rather than Rooney’s difficulties rubbing off on Man Utd and dragging them down, Man Utd’s current on-field health is rubbing off on Rooney and adversely affecting him?
Whenever I watch Man Utd these days, all I ever really see is a now-crippling lack of conviction. Under Ferguson, just about any of the great teams he created, they were the most dynamic and natural side I have ever seen. Granted, there has been better teams, but in terms of energy and dynamism they were the standard bearers.
Ferguson’s teams got the ball into good areas with speed and precision and then exploited those opportunities ruthlessly. It made them an exceptional team to watch.
Since then, though, and it hasn’t seemed to matter if it’s been David Moyes, Louis van Gaal or, indeed, Jose Mourinho, they have always appeared ponderous on the ball and intent on taking too many touches.
Generally speaking, that’s a sign of a team who are over-thinking rather than just playing naturally, and it’s that exact same feeling I get when I watch Rooney specifically too.
The point here isn’t to blame anyone for anything. Rooney is a frankly scandalously well-paid professional and he hasn’t been performing. That’s the bottom line and he deserves the criticism and scrutiny he has received.
But ultimately, you have to start looking for common denominators, and with the previously imperious pair of Mourinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic also now struggling, it’s tough to ignore the pattern.
Perhaps it’s worth considering that Manchester United are not producing an environment conducive to top players performing, and rather than it being a case of fixing Wayne Rooney can reignite Man Utd, it’s actually more a case of fixing Man Utd may just fix Wayne Rooney.
How’s your luck?
As mentioned above, there is no question that Man Utd just don’t move the ball quickly enough these days. That looks to be absolutely fundamental to the laborious way they struggle to break teams down these days and there is no getting away from it.
That said, you have to say they got dealt a tough hand out in Fenerbahce.
For Moussa Sow to produce a moment of such outrageous quality in the very first minute was the last thing United needed, especially given the effect it had on the already fervent and partisan home crowd.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Jeremain Lens near-enough matching it in the second half at another crucial juncture of the game was a doubly tough blow to take.
Man Utd need to become masters of their own destiny once again and start asserting their own quality on games like they used to, but you can just about forgive them this one. Sometimes you just have to put the postmortems aside, hold your hands up, and credit the opposition, and this one was just one of those days for Mourinho and his men.