Former Man United defender claims Wayne Rooney only picked for commercial reasons
Wayne Rooney is slow, overweight, unable to move his body quickly enough to shoot properly and still playing for Manchester United mainly for marketing reasons, according to Paul Parker, the club's former defender.
In a withering assessment of the United and England captain, Parker believes Rooney faces a "defining season" at Old Trafford and that his "undeserved" place in the team should come under threat from new world-record £89 million signing Paul Pogba.
Rooney moved to within four goals of breaking Sir Bobby Charlton's club record tally of 249 with a header in the 3-1 win away to Bournemouth in United's opening Premier League game of the season.
Jose Mourinho said last month that Rooney is "going to be a very important player for me" and that he was "quite surprised with so many question marks around this guy", while Zlatan Ibrahimovic is confident that playing up front with the captain will be "an easy combination".
But Parker, who has been a notable critic of Rooney in the past, does not believe the 30-year-old justifies a starting place any longer and has made the outlandish claim that he is being largely picked because of commercial considerations.
"This is a defining season for Rooney," Parker, who won two Premier League titles during a five-year stay at United, told 888.com. "It's no longer about him breaking records but finishing his career at Manchester United. He needs to show his worth and that he deserves to be in the team and not just because of marketing.
"As much as people appreciate what he's done over the years and how many goals he's scored, football is about now and being judged on now.
"If someone had only heard of Wayne Rooney but seen him now they'd think, 'Who is this fella? He's overweight and slow.'"
Parker criticised a weak shot from Rooney against Bournemouth and believes the arrival of Pogba - who is in line to make his debut against Southampton at Old Trafford on Friday after suspension - should put his position in the team under threat but doubts it will.
"That shot was terrible, and it looks like he can't move or shift his body quick enough," Parker said.
"With Paul Pogba you do wonder when you look at his style of play for Juventus can he play that way for Manchester United? If he plays behind Ibrahimovic that puts Wayne Rooney in doubt and Rooney has to play - not that he deserves a place, but they have to play him. So it's a difficult situation."
Rooney's camp declined to comment on Parker's latest criticism of the player, who has performed at the highest level for 14 years, winning five Premier League titles and the Champions League in that time and becoming England's all-time record goalscorer.
United are believed to have made inquiries through third parties about Gabriel Barbosa, even though Inter Milan are thought to be the favourites to sign the much-coveted 19-year-old Brazil forward, who is valued at around £25million.
Gabriel, who has impressed for Brazil during the host nation's progress to the semi-finals of the Olympic men's football tournament in Rio de Janeiro, has also attracted interest from Premier League champions Leicester City, Chelsea and a number of Italian and Spanish clubs but Inter are leading the chase at this stage.
Mourinho has spent £145.7million so far this summer recruiting his fourth priority targets - Pogba, Ibrahimovic, midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan and centre-half Eric Bailly - but the manager has not given up hope of signing another defender before the close of the transfer window a fortnight today.
The United boss needs to move players on, with Bastian Schweinsteiger expected to be the most high-profile casualty.