Wayne Rooney is fast becoming Jose Mourinho’s biggest problem at Manchester United.
Fans were bemused by Mourinho’s decision to keep the player on for the full 90 minutes during the 3-1 defeat to Watford on Sunday afternoon.
Rooney was abject and how he avoided being substituted - particularly when Juan Mata was sent on in the 62nd minute - is a mystery.
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So, why won’t Mourinho drop Rooney? It’s safe to assume the forward - or should that be midfielder? - will be back in the starting line-up for Saturday’s must-win Premier League fixture against Leicester City.
Here are seven potential reasons why Mourinho just can’t bring himself to wield the axe on Rooney’s shoulders.
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1. It will create huge media attention
Jose Mourinho isn’t bothered by a bit of media attention - it could even be suggested he thrives off it - but just imagine the media s***storm that would ensue if Mourinho dropped the United captain.
His press conferences and televised interviews would become (even more) unbearable.
While many United fans now want to see Rooney dropped - including 99 per cent of Red Issue users, apparently - it’s patently clear the striker still has many admirers in the media.
2. Rooney could react badly
Rooney isn’t as volatile as he used to be, but you still wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of him.
Mourinho admitted that his first impression of the 30-year-old was that he’s a “great kid” who doesn’t behave like he’s on course to become the all-time leading goalscorer for both United and England.
He’ll be keen to keep him onside, make no mistake about that.
3. His loyal teammates might also react badly
Mourinho will also be aware that Rooney is a popular and influential member of the Old Trafford dressing room and dropping the skipper could contribute towards a negative atmosphere being created.
Rooney has been at United since 2004; Mourinho, on the other hand, five minutes.
You start to see why dropping the forward is probably easier said than done for a new manager - even Mourinho.
4. United are stuck with Rooney for a while yet
David Moyes, lest we forget, rewarded Rooney during the ill-fated 2013-14 campaign with a new five-and-a-half-year deal.
The former Everton starlet is currently on a ridiculous £300,000-a-week contract and no other club is going to fork out that kind of money for the ageing striker.
‘A club in China probably will,’ we hear you say. Seriously, can you imagine Rooney and his family packing their bags and moving to China? Exactly.
5. Rooney is still capable of the odd moment of magic
Yes, the moments of magic are few and far between these days, but they still occur from time to time.
Rooney isn’t totally finished yet and is, despite his current form, still capable of scoring a brilliant goal or providing an inch-perfect pass.
Mourinho hasn’t lost faith in the United star’s technical ability just yet.
6. Are the alternatives much better?
It’s obvious that Mourinho doesn’t trust Juan Mata while Marcus Rashford is still young and learning his trade.
Anthony Martial has been poor so far this season and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, despite what the goals might suggest, has struggled with the intensity of the Premier League in a few matches since arriving in the summer.
Rooney played deeper against Watford and was dreadful and Mourinho might wish he’d deployed Ander Herrera instead. But that still leaves Marouane Fellaini in midfield. Is Rooney not a better option than the clumsy Belgian?
7. Potential rifts with Sam Allardyce and the FA
Rooney is England’s record goalscorer and recently announced his decision to retire from international football after the 2018 World Cup finals, ensuring he’ll start every match between now and then.
Sam Allardyce loves Rooney so much that he gave him free reign during his first match in charge against Slovakia and will be keen to ensure the player is still starting week-in, week-out with his club.
Mourinho respects Allardyce and the England national team. Aware that he’s managing in Rooney’s home country, might there be a chance that he feels a certain responsibility to continue deploying the forward at every available opportunity?
Why else might Jose Mourinho be scared to drop Wayne Rooney? Have your say by leaving a comment below.