|Wayne Rooney could be United's secret weapon|
Paul Scholes retired and yet managed to make a return into the team as a midfield quarter-back with less emphasis on making late runs into the box and mostly spending his time on the pitch dictating play from deep with less running work to do.
Ryan Giggs dipped in form in his early 30s out wide, so much so that it became obvious that he'd have to re-invent his game to remain relevant at Manchester United. By his mid-thirties, he was a fully fledged central midfielder/forward at Manchester United. The trick however was not just in the inherent talent of those players but in the man management of them.
Sir Alex Ferguson often asked Ryan to prepare three weeks in advance for a big game in which he was a definite starter. It allowed a 38 year old Giggs time to tune and tone his body for the clash ahead, all the while bidding his time on the bench or out of the team together. His incredible performance in the 2008/2009 season in a 3-0 victory over Chelsea was one such product of brilliant man management.
In Fergie's book, asking a player to prepare for all that time for a big game kept the player in question feeling relevant to the club, moreso that they were asked to do so in the very big games. The double benefit to it all was allowing his starting XI to get the necessary addition of experience and leadership on the pitch for the very big games.
It gets lost on modern fans but there are times and games throughout the season when all you need are the very raw British qualities in players to get over the line. Wayne Rooney at his peak was the embodiment of a combination of said qualities and in-born talent. Whilst the latter may fade owing to a career long stay at the top level, the former tend to last much longer.
Manchester United are currently not blessed with many players that can wear their heart on their sleeve and dig the club out of a desperate situation. Wayne Rooney is one of them and we've still got him. Whilst he rightly no longer merits a place in the first team, Jose Mourinho can utilise the captain's will to his advantage if he tailors his man and squad management around the qualities Wayne still possesses.
We've been reminded of these only too recently. The FA Cup final was turned in our favour because the captain chased a labyrinth down the touchline and managed to turn a seemingly fruitless venture into a great chance that was taken. Earlier this season, none of the quality United had at Hull City bore any fruit until Wayne improvised.
Jose Mourinho has a player he can still choose to do with what he wants. Whether it's asking him to prepare get stuck in when City visit in the EFL Cup or simply bide his time for a place in the team, the manager now has a wild card that he can use to unpredictable reward (or failure). Besides, Wayne is the guy on whom the ball bounces off (usually owing to a poor first touch) and suddenly United have a chance to score! Ultimately though what's for certain is that there is still some juice to be sucked out of this one.
*(Sorry about that last part.)