September 27, 2016

FREE KICKS: Rooney’s time at United waning?

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

Are we seeing the beginning of the end of Wayne Rooney era at Manchester United?

While that statement is surely a bit of an overreaction after the United captain was dropped to the bench against Leicester City on Saturday, it’s no secret that Rooney isn’t exactly fitting in to Jose Mourinho’s system very well.

He’s a player without a position right now, which makes him hard for the manager to slot into the lineup. Rooney isn’t the goal-scoring threat anymore than Zlatan Ibrahimovic is up front. He’s not the creative influence that’s needed in the No. 10 role. As industrious he is at tracking back, he’s still a liability in defence so he can’t be a box-to-box midfielder and he’s not pacey enough to be put out on the wing.

While it’s a pretty safe bet that Rooney – who came on as a sub later in the game – is just being rested for this week’s Europa League match, Mourinho knows how this looks from the outside. Especially considering how much chatter there has been about the Englishman’s recent struggles.

We may, in fact, look back at this game as the beginning of the end for the legend at this historic club. Or maybe this is just a bump in the road for his biography.

It also can’t be understated how well United played against the champs, running over the Foxes in the first half.

If this is how well that the Red Devils can play without Rooney, then the case is certainly being made to move on from him. Whether it happens in January or next summer might be the biggest question.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Ever since getting into the starting lineup for Spurs this season, Heung-Min Son has been on fire.

After only getting into the past three games, Son now has four goals and an assist after bagging a brace against Middlesbrough this weekend. And the goals haven’t been cheapies, either.

Son used some deft touches and nice dribbling around the box to free himself up for his strikes and should be on most highlight reels.

With top goal threat Harry Kane out for a couple of months, Son is stepping up nicely into a bigger role while new signing Vincent Janssen has struggled to adapt to the Premier League so far.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

Wait a second, Spurs are in second? Tottenham is also one of two teams that hasn’t lost yet this season, along with Man City … West Ham just can’t stop shipping goals. And when they come up against a decent defensive side like Southampton, they can’t score them either. That’s a recipe for relegation … It’s going to be pretty crazy when London’s Olympic Stadium will have a primary tenant in League Championship next season. After another embarrassing loss, West Ham is looking in dire need of some help to get out of the relegation zone … Everton had never lost to Bournemouth going into Saturday’s game. But it looks like Romelu Lukaku’s purple patch is over as the striker couldn’t rescue his side against the very game Cherries … Before we hand Manchester City the title already, let’s just remember that it got off to a similar start last season, winning its first five games. The only difference is that I think Pep will hold it together, unlike Manuel Pellegrini did last year … City better hope that Kevin De Bruyne’s injury isn’t too serious. He’s looking like the best player in the league right now … Arsenal ran over Chelsea the way that the Blues usually do to their London rivals. Even N’Golo Kante, a man with one of the highest workrates in the league, was beaten back on Mesut Ozil’s goal by the ref. Are players not responding well to Alberto Conte? … Crystal Palace has been a different team since signing Christian Benteke. It has been excellent in attack since bringing in the Belgian to lead the line.

THE LAST WORD

Who will be the first manager to get sacked?

Sure, it’s still early in the season, being just six games in and all, but in no league are owners and fans more impatient than the Premier League. So which manager looks most ready to be shown the door?

Well, Sunderland is currently sitting in last place, but David Moyes just started on the job a few months ago, so don’t expect him to win the sack race.

Rumour has it that Swansea is looking at American coach Bob Bradley to potentially take over for Francesco Guidolin, who has failed to build on a strong end to last season.

Mark Hughes certainly should be feeling a bit of heat on his seat, with Stoke looking like rubbish so far. His Potters, who are a notoriously defensive side, have shipped 15 goals so far and have the worst goal differential in the league.

And then there’s Slavan Bilic, who has West Ham sitting in the relegation zone after finishing in a Europa League spot last season.

If I was a betting man, I’d say that Guidolin is the first to go, just based on reports. But don’t rule out Hughes, who has clearly lost the locker room.

Of course, it’s looking pretty certain that Big Sam Allardyce is already out of the England job due to this breaking third-party scandal. Maybe his availability will prompt a team to make a move.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

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