Wayne Rooney is right and wrong about Manchester United players and managerial situation – Samuel Luckhurst

Some Manchester United supporters who tuned into Wayne Rooney on monday night football might have put their feet through the television.

Paul Pogba? “It’s got to the point now where it’s probably better for him to move on.”

Cristiano Ronaldo? “I think they need more younger and more hungry players.”

“They’ve got good young players,” Rooney stressed. “I think Sancho will be better next year, Marcus will be better next year. They’ve got good young players. I think Jesse Lingard should be playing for them.”

READ MORE: PSG make Pogba offer ahead of United exit

Lingard, 30 in December, has been de-aged more than Robert de Niro in The Irishman. If anyone catches a glimpse of his Instagram page from him, the assumption is Lingard is still in his early 20s rather than a father-of-one in his 30th year.

Rashford, 25, does not qualify as a young player anymore. He has been playing first-team football for more than six years. Rooney mentioned Scott McTominay, 25, had ‘done well’. That was terribly timed as McTominay endured one of his worst performances of the season against Leicester on Saturday. He has done well in past seasons but not this one.

Rooney’s point about Lingard barely playing had some merit. He was inexplicably underused by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and by the time Ralf Rangnick was parachuted in Lingard knew his departure date of June 30 was final.

The British theme continued with Rooney when Maguire was mentioned: “I like Harry, I know Harry personally. He hasn’t been in his best form this season, like a lot of players haven’t. And then he goes to England and he looks like a world-class centre-back.”

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There is little to dispute there. Rooney and Maguire are represented by the same agency and Rooney told this correspondent in February he had advised Maguire in the fallout from the Mykonos incident. Maguire was flawless for England during the European Championship and had one of his steadiest games for United at the weekend, but it is unpopular to praise or defend the scapegoated skipper Maguire.

Rooney’s most telling piece of analysis was on the managerial situation: “I think Pochettino has done it in the Premier League, he knows the Premier League. At Tottenham, he brought a lot of young players through, at Southampton, he brought a lot of young players through as well.

Pochettino has long wanted to manage United

“If I’m choosing between one of [Pochettino and Erik ten Hag], that’s who I’d choose, I’d go for Pochettino and give him time. Managers now, they need time to come in and actually put their blueprint on the club and the team. If you gave him time, I think he’d do well. In my opinion, he’s a top manager.”

Again, this was not what many United supporters wanted to hear. Ten Hag is the popular pick and earlier in the day this newspaper reported the United dressing room was split over the potential appointment of the Dutchman.

In February, it was reported Pochettino was the popular pick among the players. Dressing room sources have described Ten Hag as ‘underwhelming’ and there have been whispers of other ramifications if United trigger the Ajax coach’s release clause.

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It is not outrageous to suggest Pochettino, with almost seven years’ experience in the Premier League, developing young players England have reaped the rewards from and charming the nest of vipers at Paris Saint-Germain, is – on paper – more suitable to manage United than Ten Hag.

Ten Hag’s achievements at Ajax are laudable but not outstanding. The 2018-19 season was so distant only three of the starters against Tottenham in that gutting second leg lined up at Groningen on Saturday. The XI included Daley Blind, Davey Klaasen, Steven Berghuis, Dusan Tadic and Sebastian Haller, five Premier League cast-offs.

Pochettino is in a job he has not fully embraced but he is gaining new skills, managing serial winners after five-and-a-half years with serial losers at Tottenham. Ten Hag is the older coach yet arguably has more potential than Pochettino, whose stock has fallen in the last four years. If United don’t plump for Ten Hag this year then City might next year.

Already at a football club with a successful structure and recruitment strategy, Ten Hag is arguably more aligned with City’s set-up than United’s. But United stir the soul and there is a shred of pureness about them Ten Hag can relate to.

Despite the owners, United will always be Manchester’s glamorous club. Just ask Rooney, who resisted City in 2010.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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