Man Utd Focus - Crunch time for Rooney's Old Trafford career
The future of Wayne Rooney is the subject of intense speculation after the forward was left out of the Manchester United team that faced Real Madrid on Tuesday. With just over two years left on his contract at Old Trafford, and the club unlikely to allow it to enter its final year, it is crunch time for Rooney.
There have been reports of a tense relationship between the player and Sir Alex Ferguson, now denied by the manager, which was dealt an almighty blow in October 2010 when the Englishman handed in a transfer request. Rooney himself admitted that saga was the biggest mistake of his career, and stated again in August last year that he was "here to stay". However, stories have abounded that Ferguson has been unhappy with Rooney's conditioning all season, which was disrupted by the serious gash he suffered to his thigh early in the campaign.
The United boss is hardly one to stand for players with issues remaining at the club, as was clearly seen in the cases of Paul Ince, Roy Keane, David Beckham and Ruud van Nistelrooy. Perhaps the situation with Rooney has been less volatile, but this may be a case of Ferguson learning from his mistakes and holding his cards close to his chest. Indeed, his refusal to speak to the media following United's elimination from the Champions League smacked not only of dissatisfaction but also of wisdom that he did not come out with anything incriminating or overly emotional, which his rivals would seize upon as weakness.
There would be many suitors for Rooney should he become available, not least Paris Saint-Germain. However there are doubts that even they could afford him in that a similar pay packet to Zlatan Ibrahimovic would see the club's entire annual turnover matched on the wages of two players - surely not possible in line with the new UEFA Financial Fair Play regulations.
It is extremely doubtful United would sell to Manchester City, however Real Madrid seem to be in need of a striker in that Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuaín don't appear to be particularly highly regarded at the Bernabéu. Rooney could play a role in Madrid, yet would Ferguson want to sell him to such a club in an era when all of Europe's top teams should be considered major rivals?
The instability comes at a time when Rooney is actually contributing considerably to United's cause. He has a combined Premier League and Champions League goals and assists ratio of 0.92 per game, which is the highest figure of his Old Trafford career. There can also be doubts regarding whether Ferguson would sell a player who was predicted to be one of the world's best as he hits what ought to be his prime.
The only player the United manager has willingly sold and later regretted is Jaap Stam. Rooney still possesses the quality to add to this should he be shown the Old Trafford exit door. His exclusion from the starting XI against Real was an indication that Ferguson no longer places all his trust in a player that had always been touted as a future United captain prior to his attempt to leave the club.
The next couple of months will likely be crucial in determining the future of one of English football's brightest stars. If Rooney takes the disappointment of being dropped for one of the biggest games on the calendar as a stimulus that it never happens again, the manager could have a fearsome player at his disposal to help reclaim the Premier League title and secure the club's first FA Cup in almost a decade.
Trust can be slowly built back up after it has been lost. On the other hand, the volatility may be bubbling under the surface, and the events of this week could be one of the key factors that is looked back upon in the departure of Wayne Rooney from Manchester United.
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