United have already added Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Eric Bailly and Henrikh Mkhitaryan to last season’s side and the return of Paul Pogba appears a matter of time. Rooney, the team’s captain, says the feeling in the dressing room is that they have turned a corner.
“I think the players feel this is more like the old Manchester United,” he told the Daily Mail. “It’s not just the new signings, we’ve got Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford from last season who made such an impact.
“We’re in a very good spot now. We think we can challenge for the Premier League and we want to put a marker down in the Community Shield with Leicester [on Sunday].”
The arrival of Pogba, who left for Juventus in 2012, will energise United further and Rooney thinks the France international will feel he still has work to complete at Old Trafford. “He had great ability, some of the things he could do, and he’s gone up a level since he left us,” Rooney said. “I hope he is going to want to return to United and prove he’s a top-class player. I’m sure he’ll feel there is unfinished business.”
Rooney is expected to contribute from a forward role this season, one more familiar than the midfield position he occupied for the bulk of 2015-16. He says José Mourinho’s plans should give him the freedom he enjoys and have led to a switch in his mentality.
“He wants us to play with a lot of freedom, a lot of rotation in the forward positions, lots of opportunities to score goals – and I think I can do that, score the goals to help us be successful,” he said. “Getting that mentality back, from being a midfield player to being a goalscorer again is what I’ve been working on all pre-season.”
Rooney also spoke about England’s Euro 2016 exit against Iceland, admitting that the decision by Roy Hodgson to rest six players for the previous game – against Slovakia – was among the factors that cost the team.
“If you leave playing your best, beaten by a better team, I accept that,” he said. “But we didn’t play. We had lost momentum from the Slovakia game and tournament football is about confidence. You get that from winning.
“We didn’t play great in the friendlies but we won. So you try to build, even from before the tournament – but we couldn’t get that consistency once it began.”
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