Why Wayne Rooney’s exclusion made such a huge difference – Manchester United vs Leicester Review

It took a bit of time, but Jose Mourinho finally got the result and performance to make other fans sit up and take notice of Manchester United. With the absence of Wayne Rooney, the team really stepped up and gave one of the most exciting games to watch in a very long time.

The game started a bit slowly but as soon as Smalling scored everything changed. The tempo increased enormously and United completely dominated the rest of the half. It feels like such a long time since I’ve watched such a period of domination from a United side and it was extremely exciting to watch.

smalling leicester

But why such a drastic improvement? Well, quite simply put, it was the exclusion of Rooney that finally helped Mourinho find a system that clicked. As already mentioned, Smalling’s goal kick-started the game for Manchester united and it came from a corner. Rooney’s corner taking this season has honestly been completely dreadful, so it was refreshing to see Blind take one and the ball actually reach one of our players, rather than go straight out for a throw in or goal kick.

As mentioned in my last post, Herrera is a great player and having him alongside Pogba gave the new marquee signing much more freedom to roam. Herrera’s work rate in the middle of the park meant that he was winning the ball back and always looking to move it forward. However, the man to really make the difference in the middle of the park was Juan Mata. Yes, at the start of the season we won every game in which he started, but this time as a number 10 he really showed his true value to the team and why he should start ahead of the club captain. With the more aggressive players in the team supporting him, Mata was given the freedom to roam the midfield and he did so exceptionally. He was constantly finding the gaps and spaces to play quick passes, which is how he works best.

juan mata ander herrera

Mourinho has finally found a midfield with a good balance, that should also bring the best out of Paul Pogba, but could Rooney not fit in elsewhere? Right now I’d have to say Rooney’s best served on the bench. With Zlatan already lacking pace up top, and Mata being given a freer role, the team needs some more energy and pace. As mentioned already, Herrera is superb, and of course there is Rashford too, but that would not be enough to compromise for the slower Rooney. Take Lingard for example, who despite not having the best of games, offered a lot more to the attack than Rooney would have, as he was constantly making runs off the ball causing the Leicester defence to struggle more. Had Rooney played instead then maybe Mata and other players wouldn’t have been able to find as much space as they did.

To summarise, it was an excellent performance and Mourinho may have just found the correct winning formula, but one in which Rooney’s role would be left sat on the bench rather than starting.

Player Ratings

David De Gea: 6.

Antonio Valencia: 7.

Chris Smalling: 7.

Eric Bailly: 7.

Daley Blind: 9.

Ander Herrera: 8.

Paul Pogba: 8.

Jesse Lingard: 6.

Juan Mata: 9 (my MOTM).

Marcus Rashford: 7.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: 6.

Thank you for reading!

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