Saturday 24 September 2016

No Rooney and no problem as Pogba silences critics

Jose Mourinho was true to his pre-match words as Wayne Rooney was dropped for a league game for the first time since Boxing Day 2015- and ended up a spectator in a transformed first half performance.

For the first 20 minutes it was much of the same from United - ponderous and slow in their build-up, but once Chris Smalling nodded in Blind's corner to put us ahead the shackles were released.

How much of a difference Rooney's absence made to our play is hard to quantify but a 4-0 lead at the break was proof enough that the change was justified. 

There was no great discord between player and club as we saw in 2013 and Rooney politely applauded back when he was sent out to warm up towards the end of the first half.
He received a glowing welcome when he came on but it won't stop the chatter surrounding Rooney- his United future is on the line.

Rooney did not get dropped for the man Mourinho signed to be his new number 10- the injured Henrik Mkhitaryan.
He was dropped because Jose had to do something to wake his team from their September slumber. 

What we don't know yet is whether the United and England captain is surplus to requirements permanently. 

Juan Mata, nominally playing in Rooney's usual position tucked in behind Zlatan, was bright and lively and took his goal superbly before he teed up Rashford for a tap-in, but it was in midfield that the hosts really took a grip as Leicester froze.

Rooney eventually did come on with seven minutes left replacing Rashford on the left wing. 
Where his future role now lies- if indeed at all- remains a mystery but Mourinho's decision to leave out his captain could hardly have worked out better.

United's first half performance was their best of the season so far and went hand-in-hand with Pogba's finest display since his world record £89 million summer move to Old Trafford.

Mourinho picked Ander Herrera to partner him instead of Fellaini or Carrick, and Pogba noticeably played further forward often interchanging with Juan Mata.

He had already hit two searching cross-field passes before a fine individual showreel as United scored three goals in five dazzling minutes at the end of the half.

Pogba delivered a gorgeous chipped ball over the top for Ibrahimovic, who volleyed over, had a 35-yard screamer tipped behind by Ron-Robert Zieler and sliced through a lovely disguised pass to free Antonio Valencia. 
The Frenchman played a key part in Mata's goal before he headed his first goal for the club.

For £89 million he is expected to control and dominate games and he did in a brilliant performance.
He faded a bit after the break but the game was already won.

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