Pogba return could mark beginning of end for Rooney at Man United


It may have taken a world-record transfer free to do so, but Manchester United have brought back the one that got away, securing the services of Paul Pogba and, in doing so, potentially lessened the influence of their captain.

The signing of Pogba comes on the back of two further big-name arrivals at Old Trafford, the France midfielder following Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan through the door in a transfer window that could leave skipper Wayne Rooney searching for a role in the team.

Rooney was deployed in behind Ibrahimovic in a 4-2-3-1 formation during United's 2-1 Community Shield win over Premier League champions Leicester City and was influential in the victory, producing three key passes during the game.

Playing for a manager in Jose Mourinho who is adept at maximising the resources at his disposal, Rooney should get plenty of opportunities to impress but, with the arrivals of Pogba, Ibrahimovic and Mkhitaryan, has little room for the poor form that defined much of the previous campaign.

The 30-year-old was largely ineffective in 2015-16 and scored just eight times in the Premier League, with Mourinho's predecessor Louis van Gaal moving Rooney back into midfield to increase his impact later in the season.

United's addition of the dynamic, physically imposing box-to-box presence of Pogba to the engine room makes it improbable Mourinho would consider such a move.

Ibrahimovic's late header at Wembley provided a superfluous reminder of his reliability as one of Europe's premier talismen and, even at the age of 34, the Swede figures to be first-choice up front for the majority of the coming campaign, freezing Rooney out of a possible striking role.

In behind Ibrahimovic Rooney has plenty of competition due to the transfer of Mkhitaryan and the emergence of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard, who all burst onto the scene as the few bright spots in Van Gaal's laborious final season as manager.

Mkhitaryan has proven himself to be an outstanding creative force having racked up 23 goals and 32 assists for Borussia Dortmund last term.

The Armenian can play through the middle or out wide, as can Martial, Rashford and Lingard, who are blessed with the pace that has gradually deserted Rooney as his career has progressed.

Although his career may not have hit heights many expected, Rooney already stands as one of the greatest players in United's history, winning five Premier League titles, an FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League in his time at the club.

Rooney can overtake the legendary Bobby Charlton as United's all-time record goalscorer this season. However, Mourinho is not one to put reputation ahead of performances and, if Rooney endures struggles akin to those of last season, the skipper could well be watching much of the action from the dugout.

Last week Old Trafford played host to Rooney's testimonial between United and Everton and it was perhaps befitting of Rooney's recent slump that the game ended in a drab goalless draw.

And, with one of world football's brightest stars set to come into the spine of the United side, that low-key celebration of Rooney's career may prove to be the beginning of the end of his time as a key figure at Old Trafford.