Football: Is Jose Mourinho afraid of dropping Wayne Rooney?

Wayne Rooney as a striker or midfielder was once the question on Manchester United fans' lips but now it seems the new question is: "Should Rooney even be in United's first XI?"

It's only September and five league games into the new season and it's clear that manager Jose Mourinho must drop his captain but why hasn't he? I can only speculate that it's because the Special One is scared of the Privileged One.

During last weekend's match against Watford, Rooney hit an all-time low. He took nine corners/free kicks and only two resulted in any meaningful chance at the opposition goal.

Apart from that, Rooney, who was deployed in a deep-lying playmaker role, created zero chances from open play, did not attempt a single through ball and had no shots on target. Why is he still in the team?

Mourinho has to give face

Rooney is considered an Old Trafford legend while Mourinho, for all his trophies, is the new kid on the block. He may be the coach but he has a duty to allow the captain to prove his worth. He wouldn't want to shake things up starting with the man with the armband of all people. As it is, he's already had to face a lot of critisim for his treatment of Bastian Schweinsteiger. Plus sales of replica Rooney kits for last season were sixth-highest among Europe's top clubs, which indicates he's still a very popular player.

Huge media storm

 

Just like with Schweinsteiger, there could have been a huge media storm if he had dropped Rooney, the England skipper, after his poor Euro 2016 showing. What's worse is that the United team could have reacted badly and the last thing Mourinho would want is dressing-room unrest so early in his tenure at the Theatre of Dreams.

Mourinho's worried he won't be a success

Have you ever considered that the Portuguese is afraid he won't succeed at United? No one expected him to fall from grace so quickly at Chelsea, least of all him. And he could just be allowing Rooney to end up as the fall guy. At the moment, pretty much everyone on my Facebook feed has blamed Rooney for each of United's three loses so far this campaign.

Perhaps there's no better alternative

Just looking at game against Watford over the weekend, Rooney played 40 passes and completed 33 of them. Not bad right? But out of those 33, 27 were passes sideways or backwards.

I've read reports that Mourinho tried to sign James Rodriquez. Is that his ideal player for the No. 10 role? Perhaps but until that happens, it looks like Rooney is the only option he's got. He certainly prefers using Henrikh Mkhitaryan on the flanks and Paul Pogba further back in the midfield.

Mourinho needs a fall guy

Rarely one to admit his mistakes, this might be Mourinho's plan to have a scapegoat should things get worse. By retaining Rooney in the side, the manager is passing the buck to everyone else (United board, fans and players) should he eventually decide to drop Rooney.

After all, this is not the guy who starred in the 2009-10 season where he scored 34 goals in 44 appearances. That was his best ever showing for the Red Devils... six years ago.

There's always China though for the 30-year-old Rooney. According to media reports, he was offered a three-year deal worth nine figures after tax to swop England for China just earlier this year.

Speculate all you want but one thing is for certain; Rooney just doesn't cut it for Manchester United anymore.

Elliott Danker is the sports anchor for ONE FM's #1 Breakfast Show