Under-fire Wayne Rooney hits back at criticism as 'a lot of rubbish'
How odd it is to witness a player of Wayne Rooney’s natural gifts increasingly hinder and, indeed, upset the balance of the teams he has represented with such distinction for more than a decade.
It’s almost as if the fantastically robust, marauding man-boy who burst into the football psyche over 14 years ago never existed at all.
That is, of course, if you completely subscribe to the incessant din of derision that envelopes the Manchester United skipper more and more lately.
There is no doubt that he is not the specimen of yore, a decade and half of hard graft and a questionable adherence to nutrition and conditioning have seen to that.
However, he now stands alone, charged with the blatant shortcomings of both United and England. Unquestionably, and to their detriment, the erstwhile Roy Hodgson and Louis van Gaal incorrectly bestowed upon him a position of infallibility within their squads.
And, thus far, Sam Allardyce and Jose Mourinho have followed suit, as they continue to pummel the proverbial square peg into the round hole regardless of the blatant futility.
Last night as United made hard work of defeating Northampton Town by 3-1 in the EFL Cup and, in turn, snapped a three game losing streak, the overriding feeling on social media was not that people expected Rooney to be poor, but that they wanted him to.
The latter pair of managers must assume considerable culpability at this juncture.
According to Allardyce, it’s not for him to say what position Rooney should play in, despite intending on picking him whenever permitted, while Mourinho has completely gone back on his vow not to deploy the former Everton man in the middle third.
Rooney has started all seven of United’s competitive games this term, and has been positioned as a striker, No.10, a winger and a deep lying playmaker – few could argue that he has distinguished himself in any role.
That he has scored just a solitary goal only compounds the matter.
What’s more, Mourinho’s continued accommodation of Rooney has meant less game time for the mesmeric Marcus Rashford and ensured that Paul Pogba appears unclear exactly what he position he’s playing.
Hardly a predicament you’d expect to befall the world’s most expensive player, how ever underwhelming his second stint at Old Trafford has begun.
Indeed, you can be sure none of this is news to Rooney, and he discussed his current juncture with MUTV.
"I think I’ve had that my whole career – a little bit more of late, I think, but that’s football. I listen to my coaches and my team-mates, the people around me, and I don’t really listen to what a lot of people out there are saying because a lot of it is rubbish.
"I have to focus, work hard, of course, and I’ve done that throughout my career. I’ve worked hard and tried to do my best for the team.
"I’ve done that (played in different positions) throughout my career.
“I feel I can play in all positions but I think the manager has made it clear either I’ll play up front or in the no.10 and that’s where he sees me playing. As I said before, it’s not just myself – the whole team is going in and working hard. We had a bad week but we’ve been working hard to put that right."
Even by his own standards, it’s quite startling how quickly Mourinho’s first campaign at the helm has been thrust into freefall, at least temporarily.
United began the season with victories over Bournemouth, Southampton and Hull. The last victory was facilitated by Rooney’s fine cross for Rashford, who netted the match winner.
However, since losing a pulsating Manchester derby by 2-1, the veneer of a team in the midst of a renaissance has been momentarily shattered. All the while, the wins keep racking up for Pep Guardiola across town.
Their loss to Feyenoord was followed by the nascent campaign’s nadir, a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Watford.
For Rooney, now just three goals off Bobby Charlton’s all time United record of 249, this, too, shall pass.
"That’s football, I think. We don’t win in three games and, of course, everyone is going to talk about it. We had a bad week, a bad eight days where we’ve lost three games, and it’s important now we react well to that and come through that.
"I’m sure obviously we will come back and definitely be challenging this season."
For United’s sake it must, because in Saturday’s early kick off they entertain a Leicester side fumbling through their title defence and in desperate need of a galvanising result.