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(Mata keeps his distance while Rooney, as usual, creeps up to the boss)

This is a perfectly reasonable question and yet the answer, for some unknown reason, appears to be quite complicated.

Certainly, over the last couple of years Juan Mata has contributed much, much more to the team than has Rooney. He is not a volatile character and represents the club in a much more positive and favourable way than Rooney.

Last season, for example, Mata made 49 appearances and scored 10 goals whereas Rooney made 38 appearances and scored 15 goals. Mata was also responsible for assisting many more goals than Rooney.

The difference here is quite marked. Rooney is expected to score goals. He was bought to score goals and the fact that he was played in midfield for some of last season should not detract enormously from his responsibilities. Had it not been for the likes of Mata, Rashford and Martial, then United’s goal tally would have been even more woeful than it was, and it was woeful.

As a midfielder, Rooney does not have the range of passes that Paul Scholes possessed. Granted, he can hit the occasional long or cross field pass with a decent measure of accuracy, but this ability is more than countered by the number of times he is dispossessed, or just meekly gives the ball straight to the opposition.

He is rarely seen to make a tackle and winning the ball back appears to be beyond him. As far as workrate goes, Rooney can be seen strolling around the pitch for most of the game whereas Mata will try to get stuck in and make something happen.

There are certainly better midfielders than Rooney at Old Trafford and, indeed, one of them is even being sold!

Bastian Schweinsteiger has not had a lot of luck with injuries since he came to United but, then again, he never did and Louis van Gaal knew this when he bought him. Uninjured, he is a much better midfield player than Rooney. So is Ander Herrera and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Paul Pogba is certainly a much better option than Rooney, even Maroune Fellaini offers more alternatives!

Anyway, back to the Mata/Rooney debate. As previously mentioned, Rooney has been known to throw his toys out of the pram whilst spitting his dummy out at the same time. He has successfully held the club to ransom on two occasions, both of which should have seen him sold without discussion.

Mata, on the other hand, has taken to life at Old Trafford like a fish to water. He is always very respectful towards the club and it’s history and has certainly become very fond of Manchester, (a fact which might see him move to Everton, rather than abroad, if he is sold). He spends some of his spare time visiting cultural sites, such as museums and art galleries. Somehow, I can’t imagine Rooney having any interest in anything cultural, I don’t know why!

A couple of years ago I wrote an article for HITC on why United should sell Rooney instead of Mata. The reasons may be slightly different now but the logic is still the same. If you want to read it here it is.

In the past it was Robin van Persie who had arrived to be the main striker, now it is Zlatan Ibrahimović. Either way, the conundrum is the same, who plays behind him? Rooney is certainly no longer good enough to play alongside him and it would look like Zlatan will be the lone striker most of the time anyway.

With the competition for the role in behind the striker at a high temperature already, I do not think that Rooney should even be considered for the position. Throw into the equation the fact that he is three years older than Mata and, in truth, there is little sense in keeping Rooney and selling Mata.

If one is to be sold, as was rumoured to be the case two years ago, then it most certainly should be Rooney and not Mata.

 

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