WAYNE ROONEY BELIEVES Manchester United will struggle to catch Manchester City this season.
Pep Guardiola’s City are firmly in control of the Premier League title race, holding a 13-point advantage over United despite drawing 1-1 at Burnley on Saturday.
Rooney played as United were beaten by Guardiola’s great Barcelona side in the 2009 and 2011 Champions League finals – scoring in the latter defeat at Wembley – and he grudgingly concedes his old rivals are a pleasure to watch.
“In terms of catching Manchester City, certainly not this season and, if I’m honest, next season it will be very difficult,” he told Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football programme when assessing United’s prospects in the Manchester rivalry.
“It’s not nice to say but if you can’t enjoy that style of play you won’t enjoy football. It’s great to watch, the movement, the confidence on the ball, the goalkeeper [Ederson]. It’s almost perfect football at times.
“I think Guardiola is putting the foundations in place of trying to emulate that Barcelona team and you can see they’re certainly on the way to doing that.
“Maybe in the summer, if they bring one or two players in, they’re not that far off. Obviously they have to win the trophies.”
Looking at his former club, Rooney says United should deploy Paul Pogba in a box-to-box midfield role to get the best out of the France star.
Jose Mourinho dropped record signing Pogba to the bench for Saturday’s 2-0 Premier League win over Huddersfield Town following a poor showing in the previous defeat at Tottenham.
The United boss praised Pogba’s reaction as a demonstration of his drive and professionalism but Rooney, who also found himself benched by the Portuguese tactician towards the end of his United career, believes a tactical tweak can unleash the 24-year-old’s best form.
“For me Paul Pogba is a classic box-to-box player. He can do a bit of everything really well,” Rooney said.
“If he has that freedom where he doesn’t have to think too much about his defensive role he can cause mayhem.
“At Juventus he had [Andrea] Pirlo alongside him. With [Nemanja] Matic and another alongside him, on the left of a three in midfield, that will certainly get the best out of him.”
Pogba has played 22 times for United in all competitions this season, scoring three goals and supplying 10 assists.
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