Manchester United Drop Rooney and Grab big win over Leicester

The Einstein in the Manchester United dug-out got it right at last. Jose Mourinho finally worked out a theory that involved dropping Wayne Rooney. And when he put it into practice against the champions of England, it worked like a dream.

This was Rooney’s introduction to a world where he is collateral damage. This was his welcome to the savagery advancing years wreak on a player’s career. United purred without him. In fact, they played so well against Leicester it is difficult to see their captain forcing his way back into the side any time soon.

Rooney cheered the glut of United goals as enthusiastically as anybody, but he may look back on this match as the beginning of the end of his time at Old Trafford.
his felt like a crossroads moment for the player who has been United’s totem for so long. He is not the main man any more. The attack functions around Zlatan Ibrahimovic now and Rooney was sacrificed on Saturday for players who complement Old Trafford’s new icon and looked a natural fit with him during this trouncing of Claudio Ranieri’s side.

It leaves Rooney deep in uncertain territory, a hero moved to the margins, a star staring at a future as a bit-part player, a man left to wonder quite how the developments will impact on his England future.

The hard truth is United functioned more smoothly without him against Leicester. They looked more fluid and less cumbersome. They moved the ball more quickly. They played with more confidence and freedom. ‘When our main striker is Zlatan, we need fast people surrounding him to bring that intensity to the game,’ said Mourinho before the match.

That was as close as the United manager has got to saying that Rooney may be the most high-profile victim of the change in personnel at the club. Mourinho talked about this game as one of those ‘difficult moments when you have to win a match’, making it clear this was not just an experiment. This was what he considers his first-choice team.

The way in which United swept aside an abject Leicester team encouraged many to predict Rooney’s imminent demise. Cartoons circulated on social media showing Rooney placing a telephone call to MLS clubs. He got on the pitch as a substitute for Marcus Rashford eight minutes from time but it was too late to make any impact.

In his absence, others stepped up. Paul Pogba has struggled since his arrival from Juventus but he was magnificent against Leicester and thoroughly deserved his first goal for the club. Some likened him to Paul Scholes, which was praise indeed. Ander Herrera was superb, too. Rashford, Ibrahimovic and Jesse Lingard linked well in attack.
United were impressive but Leicester made them look even better. It was sad to see men who scaled such heights last season and created one of the most memorable stories in football history reduced to this. They were a shambles in the first half. ‘It makes you realise how miraculous last season was,’ Gary Lineker wrote on Twitter.

This, though, was about United and a return to form after the shock of successive defeats against Manchester City and Watford. It was also a welcome relief for Mourinho, who has been under siege and who mocked the claims of ‘the Einsteins’ who had started to suggest his own career was in decline. This emphatic victory was a trenchant response.

Before the match, ex-United player Gary Neville pointed out on Sky that Mourinho still had work to do as he figured out how to deploy players he had inherited from David Moyes and Louis van Gaal.

‘You have a plate with bolognese on it, chicken tikka masala, a roast dinner with a load of curry and gravy thrown over the top and individually they are quite nice,’ said Neville. ‘But together he has to find out which bits of the plate he doesn’t like.’

When the team sheet appeared and the game kicked off, the signs were that Mourinho was starting to trust his palate again.

United took the lead midway through the first half when they won a corner. Daley Blind swung it over and Chris Smalling, United captain in Rooney’s absence, rose above Robert Huth to power his header down and goalwards. Leicester keeper Ron-Robert Zieler tried to push the ball out but only succeeded in palming it into the corner.

United might have gone two goals up minutes later when Ibrahimovic raced on to a through-ball from Herrera and squared it to Rashford, but the striker’s first touch was heavy and he blazed over the bar.

United were rampant now. Pogba dinked a chip over Leicester’s static defence and into the path of Ibrahimovic, who chested it down and turned in one moment. Despite catching his volley sweetly, however, it flew too high.

Eight minutes before half-time, United finally doubled their lead. It was the kind of beautifully worked goal their football had been threatening. Pogba was instrumental again, flicking a ball forward for Lingard, who laid it off to Juan Mata and he rifled his shot past Zieler.

Leicester were reeling, an impotent, uncertain shadow of last season and United capitalised. Five minutes before half-time, United went further ahead. Blind took a quick corner towards the near post, Mata swept it on and Rashford stretched to prod high into the net.United were not finished there. A minute later, they made it four. Another corner from Blind found the Leicester defence in disarray again and this time it was Pogba who ran on to it and glanced in.

Pogba and Herrera had been dominating the game and the rest of United’s parts operated smoothly around them.

Leicester were part of the equation too. They were abject. Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, kings of last season, were taken off at half-time. Mahrez in particular has been unable to get anywhere near the level he reached last season.

Leicester clawed back a little pride after an hour when substitute Demarai Gray cut inside and unleashed a 25-yard drive into the top corner. And Rooney came on for his eight-minute cameo but there was not enough time for him to make an impression. He may have to get used to that.
Pogba and Herrera had been dominating the game and the rest of United’s parts operated smoothly around them.

Leicester were part of the equation too. They were abject. Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, kings of last season, were taken off at half-time. Mahrez in particular has been unable to get anywhere near the level he reached last season.

Leicester clawed back a little pride after an hour when substitute Demarai Gray cut inside and unleashed a 25-yard drive into the top corner. And Rooney came on for his eight-minute cameo but there was not enough time for him to make an impression. He may have to get used to that.

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