Former Manchester United left-back Paul Parker has stated that ‘slow and overweight’ Wayne Rooney has a career-defining season ahead of him.

 

Paul Parker has slammed the Manchester United captain as being ‘over-weight and slow’, and has questioned whether he deserves a place in Jose Mourinho’s starting lineup.

In an interview with 888.com (h/t ESPN), Parker said: “This is a defining season for Rooney. It’s no longer about him breaking records but finishing his career at Manchester United. He needs to show his worth and that he deserves to be in the team and not just because of marketing.

“As much as people appreciate what he’s done over the years and how many goals he’s scored football is about now and being judged on now. If someone had only heard of Wayne Rooney but seen him now they’d think ‘Who is this fella? He’s overweight and slow. That shot was terrible, and it looks like he can’t move or shift his body quick enough.”

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 03: Wayne Rooney of Manchester United applauds supporters during the Wayne Rooney Testimonial match between Manchester United and Everton at Old Trafford on August 3, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Wayne Rooney of Manchester United applauds supporters during the Wayne Rooney Testimonial match between Manchester United and Everton at Old Trafford on August 3, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Rooney is only three goals away from being Manchester United’s highest ever goalscorer, but is currently going through a rough patch at the club. For the first half of the 2015/16 campaign, the Manchester United captain’s performances were abysmal. He was deployed as a striker and failed to score on a regular basis.

Rooney found the back of the net in his side’s opener against Bournemouth this season, but it was far from an impressive performance by the 30-year-old. However, he still seems to have the backing of Jose Mourinho.  But that could soon change if the Englishman’s performances do not improve over the course of the season. Ideally suited for a deeper role, Mourinho is persistently deploying Rooney in a number 10 position and is failing to get the best out of the club captain.

His lack of flexibility has seen him struggle playing in and around the striker. An adept reader of the game such as Rooney should be played in a deeper position where he can have a greater effect and dictate terms from the middle of the park. At 30, he does not possess the ability to play off the shoulder of an opposing midfielder. His performances in the two games this season back that argument.

ESPN’s Miguel Delaney was particularly frustrated with the 30-year-old’s performances against Bournemouth.

Even during the Community Shield game against Leicester, Rooney looked like an anomaly in what was an otherwise fluid Manchester United team. In his post-match analysis, Squawka’s Muhamed Butt described the England captain as a ‘vortex of despair’.

Looking into Parker’s comments

Is the former United defender right in labelling Rooney a slow and overweight player? Rooney definitely isn’t the prolific striker he was five years ago, nor does he possess that same pace which would see him run past defenders. He prefers creating chances for his quicker teammates rather than having a go at goal himself.

In the 2012/13 season, when he was part of a two-man attack with Robin van Persie, Rooney managed to score an impressive 12 goals and provided another 10 assists (via Squawka) in the Premier League. He formed what was an incredible strike partnership with the Dutch striker and their chemistry saw United win a record 20th league title.

The season that followed saw a change in leadership as Sir Alex Ferguson stepped down from his role as the Red Devils manager. David Moyes took charge, and despite some early obstacles, the Scottish manager brought out the best from the striker that season.

Due to Van Persie’s growing injury concerns, Rooney took over as the club’s focal point in the final third and was impressive during Moyes’ only term at United. The Englishman bagged an impressive 17 goals and provided 10 assists. He also created more chances (56) than he had in the past five seasons. However, due to a shaky defence, Rooney’s goals could only guide United to a 7th placed finish.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 08: Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney of Manchester United look dejected after the equalising goal by Graziano Pelle of Southampton during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Manchester United at St Mary's Stadium on December 8, 2014 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

The appointment of Louis van Gaal saw Rooney become Manchester United’s captain. At 28, the Englishman was one of the more experienced players in the team and was chosen to guide the team on the pitch. However, as witnessed in the FIFA World Cup 2014, Rooney looked like a shadow of his old self and looked to have considerably slowed down. Despite that, he was played as an out-and-out striker for almost the entirety of the Dutchman’s two seasons in charge where he could have arguably been more effective in a deeper midfield position.

Parker is wrong in saying that this season is Rooney’s career-defining season as he has nothing left to prove at Manchester United. However, his work-rate has come under tremendous scrutiny and it may be wise of Mourinho to consider using him in a different role.

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