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Gary Neville: Wayne Rooney needs stability at Manchester United

by Leo Nieboer

Former Manchester United full-back Gary Neville insists Wayne Rooney requires stability with regard to where he plays under Jose Mourinho.

Rooney encountered unprecedented frustration under Louis van Gaal last season, and was forced into a deeper midfield role after proving ineffective at No.9.

Mourinho, upon his arrival, stated that the 30-year-old would play as a No.10 during his time at Old Trafford.

Speaking on his return to Sky Sports, Neville made it clear that Rooney needs to settle in one position as he enters the latter stages of his career.

“If you think about where he was playing under Louis van Gaal 18 months ago, he was playing as a single striker getting 25 touches a match,” said Neville.

“Last season he was getting 100-odd touches on the left of three in midfield. Now he’s got Jose Mourinho come in and say you’re not going to play there, you’re going to play as a No 10.

“I think what he probably needs is stability and a manager to stay with him for two or three years. He now needs to settle in to that latter-phase-of-his-career position.”

It has been suggested that Paul Pogba‘s arrival at the club spells danger for Rooney; and yet, it could be a blessing in disguise. The game against Bournemouth shed light on the unorthodox way Rooney is deployed at a No.10: instead of picking up the ball between the lines and looking to play in behind the defence, the captain retreated deep into the midfield, sometimes behind the midfield duo of Ander Herrera and MarouaneĀ Fellaini.

What this means is that Rooney and Pogba – a box to box midfielder – will often change positions, with the Englishman dropping back and Pogba surging forward, consequently pulling defences out of position and giving the 23-year-old a chance to link up with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the wide men.

It could be a devastating formula, and United fans will be interested to see how this partnership unfolds in the coming weeks.

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