Wayne Rooney cannot be a striker anymore


Wayne Rooney has been given a lot of stick for his performance in Sunday's derby and it was more evidence he should not be leading Manchester United's attack.

His influence on other players and ability to change the game with a piece of magic means the England captain should not be dropped.

But, it is clear that playing him up top on his own - often with his back to goal - is not working. He should have been in Ander Herrera's position, as United's number ten behind the main striker.


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Rooney slowed everything down because he is no longer someone who can get the ball, face up to a defender and fly by him. That is the bottom line.

United do have someone who can do that in Anthony Martial. Just by playing him in Rooney's position would have been far more threatening. Instead, the Frenchman was kept out on the left.

The England captain turned 30 this week and his lack of pace are limiting his options when he reaches the latter third of the pitch.

United struggled going forward for long spells against City and did not manage a single shot in the first half.

Their problems in attack were not down to a lack of ambition, they just had the wrong player at centre-forward.

Rooney is usually effective when he comes deep to get the ball but on Sunday he was unable to find any space. Centre-halves don't like having to guess whether the opposition striker is going to come short or make runs onto balls behind the defence, especially if he is faster than them.

Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi knew they were quicker than Rooney, and they also knew he was always going to want the ball played to his feet.


It meant they could squeeze up the pitch and maintain a relatively high line, with Fernandinho and Fernando almost always in front of them Rooney was denied space in the area of the pitch he loves to operate in, between the halfway line and the edge of the area.

Rooney had around the same number of touches against City (50) as his average in previous Premier League games this season (52) so he was no less involved than normal, but he was under immense pressure whenever he got the ball and made far more mistakes than usual.

His passing accuracy of 54.8% was well down on his average of 80.7% for the season and he lost possession 28 times - more than double his normal tally.

Martial's speed would have scared City

If Rooney had been playing as number 10, with Martial in front of him, then Kompany and Otamendi would not have been able to press him because they would have left a massive hole for the 19-year-old to run into.

Manchester United v Manchester City - Premier League

To me, it is clear that is the right combination in United's attack but, it seems there is a bigger issue with Memphis Depay, who was on the bench at Old Trafford for the third successive game.

Louis van Gaal is using Martial on the left instead of Depay, and sacrificing the former's pace down the middle, which means Rooney has to go back up top and it isn't really working.

We know Martial is a great finisher but against City, once he got past Bacary Sagna, he would find himself in a crossing position, not a shooting position, and with only Rooney to aim for.

Sunday was a missed opportunity for Van Gaal. Without Aguero or Silva, City were far less of a threat and it was a good time for United to go for the jugular.

Nothing near to that ever materialised, though. But while United were disappointing going forward, credit must go to City.

Manchester United v Manchester City - Premier League

Defensively, they looked far more solid than they have been for a long time.

Kompany's return was a factor, City have not conceded a goal in any of the six league games he has played, compared to eight in four league games without him so far this season.

But pushing Yaya Toure forward and going with a partnership of Fernandinho and Fernando in front of the defence was the best decision.

Together, they closed down Rooney and anyone else who tried to run into the hole behind City's midfield. 

United only caused City problems in the final 10 minutes, when Jesse Lingard hit the bar and Chris Smalling was denied by Joe Hart.

Until then, the away side looked extremely comfortable - which is not something you expect to happen when you go to Old Trafford.

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