Rooney era over at Man United
Pathetic display suggests the longtime United hero cannot influence Mourinho's reign
(Alex Revell 42-pen)
MAN UNITED 3
(Michael Carrick 17, Ander Herrera 68, Marcus Rashford 75)
Perhaps this really is the end of the road for Wayne Rooney.
The finest English striker of his generation and one of Manchester United's greatest servants has turned into a pale shadow of his former self.
And even Jose Mourinho cannot turn this around.
Rooney's mojo has deserted him.
Instead of fire in his belly, there is uncertainty, nervousness, even fear.
Still only 30, the end shouldn't have come so quickly.
Mourinho has so far stayed loyal to his captain.
United boss Jose Mourinho. PHOTO: REUTERS
The Portuguese has started him in seven of the eight matches played since he became United's manager, despite Rooney's woeful form.
Rooney repaid the faith with one goal - in a 3-1 win over Bournemouth last month.
Against Northampton in a League Cup third-round fixture yesterday morning (Singapore time), Rooney played in the centre forward's position for the first time since May.
Mourinho's intention was clear.
This was an excellent chance for Rooney to score against a League One outfit to boost his sagging confidence.
Before the match, Mourinho was asked by a Sky Sports reporter what he wanted to see from the player.
"Goals," he said, and then repeated the same one-word answer when asked to elaborate.
United ended up winning 3-1 at the Sixfields Stadium, with Rooney looking a complete mess.
Veteran Michael Carrick gave the visitors the lead with a superb strike in the 17th minute, before Alex Revell levelled for Northampton from the spot three minutes before the break.
Ander Herrera and Marcus Rashford secured a much-needed win for the Red Devils with a goal apiece in the second half to snap the team out of a three-match losing sequence.
As Carrick, Herrera and Rashford staked their claims for a regular starting spot, Rooney was busy showing why he doesn't deserve one.
From as early as the seventh minute, he missed a sitter from close range after Ashley Young had found him in space.
It just went downhill from then on for the England international, who, on £260,000 ($460,130) a week, is the club's second-highest earner after Paul Pogba.
On a day he needed to silence his critics, he reinforced a growing belief that his best is behind him.
Former Liverpool defender Phil Thompson said: "It seems as if Wayne Rooney is one of the problems (at United), not the solution."
The calls for him to be dropped goes beyond club level.
After the Three Lions's 1-0 win over Slovakia in last month's World Cup qualifying match, ex-England goalkeeper Peter Shilton said that Rooney's presence in the national side is stunting the team's development.
Said Shilton, whose record 125 caps are just nine more than the United star: "I have to emphasise it is not because of my caps record...
"There comes a point when you think maybe that little bit of edge is not there and that is what I felt about Wayne - even leading into the Euros."
Mourinho is known to be extremely loyal to his trusted players, as he showed during his Chelsea days with John Terry and Michael Essien.
But reports are emerging that the 53-year-old might have finally lost patience with Rooney.
When United host defending Premier League champions Leicester City tomorrow, he could find himself warming the bench.
If so, it will deprive the Red Devils of a captain who over the years has become synonymous with the club, and a player who is just three goals shy of Bobby Charlton's club-record 249 goals.
What is clear, though, is that increasingly, it looks like it will take the end of Rooney's era to ignite the spark in Mourinho's reign as United boss.
"We had a bad week. I know that the world is full of Einsteins, I know that they tried to delete 16 years of my career. They tried to delete the unbelievable history of Manchester United and to focus on a bad week with three bad results. But that’s the new football, it’s full of Einsteins."
— United boss Jose Mourinho
"Rooney is a big problem. What does Mourinho do with him? Does he play him or not? I have got a funny feeling this might be the time that Rooney is left out (against Leicester), just to recharge his batteries and get him out of the focus a little bit, because he is the man who is getting the most criticism."
— Former Arsenal midfielder Ray Parlour
'Rashford must start'
TAKING HIS CHANCE: Marcus Rashford (right) scores United's third goal after Northampton's Adam Smith misses his attempted clearance. PHOTO: REUTERS
Jose Mourinho must start Marcus Rashford against Leicester City tomorrow after his cameo against Northampton, according to Phil Neville.
United booked a fourth-round League Cup clash with Manchester City after beating Northampton 3-1 (yesterday morning), with substitute Rashford making a big impact from the bench.
The 18-year-old followed up his goal against Watford on Sunday with a goal and an assist for Mourinho's men, who ended a run of three straight defeats.
Rashford has now scored on his European, Premier League, League Cup and England (senior and Under-21) debuts and has been involved in more goals in all competitions than any other United player since his debut last season (11 goals, three assists).
Neville, who was working as an analyst for Sky Sports at the Northampton game, says the England striker will be hard to leave out tomorrow for the visit of the Premier League champions.
"This kid is special," said Neville.
"He has to start (against Leicester). When a young lad is in such good form, you've got to let him fly. You've just got pick him. It puts others under pressure, but this kid is special and he's scoring goals.
"The biggest quality he's got is his temperament. To play for Manchester United is not easy, especially at a young age.
"He's making it look easy. He's getting quicker, he's getting stronger and the relationship between him and Zlatan Ibrahimovic is going to be special." - PA Sport.