West Bromwich Albion defender Gareth McAuley believes that Wayne Rooney still has plenty to offer at Manchester United, noting that the 31-year-old garners unwarranted levels of criticism from supporters and pundits.
Rooney begun the 2016/17 campaign featuring on a regular basis alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic but quickly fell down the pecking order following a string of poor performances.
He has been reduced to something of a token squad player under Jose Mourinho, completing just three 90 minute stints since the turn of the year.
And McAuley, who could go up against the captain on Saturday, was quick to leap to his defence.
“I still think he’s a quality player,” he said. “I think sometimes people look for scapegoats. And with Wayne being such a high profile player, he gets a lot of criticism.
“I feel a lot of it is probably unfair. I still think he has got a lot to offer at Manchester United. Whether he stays there or not is probably down to him, it’s his decision.”
Nobody can deny that this season feels like something of a testimonial for Rooney. He has been shifted away from the axis of Man United’s attacking line-up and placed – very subtly, I might add – in a more sporadic, figurative role under Mourinho.
I always pictured an ugly end to Rooney’s time at Old Trafford, perhaps because of the vitriolic episode that unfolded back in 2010 when the Englishman attempted to engineer a move to Manchester City, alongside the saga of 2013 that saw Sir Alex Ferguson essentially turn a blind eye towards the striker.
But Mourinho deserves credit for overseeing a sophisticated transition away from Rooney this season, and sentiments will remain warm when he moves away from Old Trafford – as expected – this summer.