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Is Wayne Rooney guaranteed a place in the Manchester United starting XI?

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After suffering a horrific cut on his right leg trying to block a shot from Fulham forward Hugo Rodallega back in August, Wayne Rooney made his long-awaited return to action for Manchester United in the Capital One Cup victory over Newcastle on Wednesday.

Once the most devastating player at Old Trafford and in the England national team, the talented attacker’s stock has taken a dip slightly after a limp Euro 2012 campaign and unimpressive start to the 2012-13 season. Given the strength in depth at Sir Alex Ferguson’s disposal in attack currently, will Rooney still be an automatic starter for the Red Devils when he returns to full fitness?

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It is obvious to state that Rooney would be a real asset to any team when he is firing on all cylinders, but United now have other forward players of quality who are ready to challenge for a starting place. Robin van Persie has continued where he finished off with Arsenal last season, and has netted five times so far to top the Premier League goalscoring charts.

The side’s other summer signing Shinji Kagawa has added an energy and range of movement that has refreshed the Old Trafford club’s offensive play, and after brief experimentation it seems the Japan international’s best position is as a second striker. With Danny Welbeck signing a new contract and growing in stature and confidence, and Javier Hernandez the ultimate poacher, Rooney has competition for his jersey, unlike any season since he joined the club from Everton in 2004.

With media pundits starting to cast doubt over Rooney’s worth to United and an apparent drop in dependence on the forward due to other players stepping up to the plate, it is time for the England man to get back to his best. A dream partnership with Van Persie on paper looks like the most dangerous option for United, but Rooney must firstly prove that he has more to offer than the industrious and very able Kagawa, Welbeck and Hernandez.

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