As Manchester United closed their season with that enthralling 5-5 draw at the Hawthorns, the issue of Wayne Rooney’s future continues to command headlines. The idea of Sir Alex Ferguson standing down and David Moyes taking over has begun to embed itself with the club’s supporters, whereas the debate over whether the Premier League champions should sell Rooney continues to rage.
The England international’s absence from United’s final two games seems poignant, although there are still rumours that the matter will not be resolved until there is a meeting between the player and his former Everton boss. If Rooney’s differences with the club stemmed from Ferguson’s dwindling deployment of the former crowd favourite – including regular criticism of his form, fitness and weight – he may not find an ally in a man who sued him for libel.
It is fair to say that Rooney has not been in the richest form this past season, only managing 12 Premier League goals in 27 appearances, in addition to 10 assists. Yet it is the overall contribution that has not been as impressive as in years gone by, and the number of sloppy balls that have gone awry has increased.
United’s setup without Rooney is far from unimpressive, with some of the best football they played all season coming in the early part of the campaign when he was out injured. New signing Shinji Kagawa was in excellent form in an advanced position, and is expected to be an even stronger prospect next time round. Robin van Persie is capable of leading the line on his own, and having featured in all 38 league games for two seasons in a row has overcome the doubts over his fitness.
Rooney will be 28 not long into the new campaign, and with just two years remaining on his Old Trafford contract, this summer could represent the last chance United could command a large transfer fee for a player they signed for almost £30m. With clubs such as Monaco and Paris Saint Germain linked, the time could be right to cash in on a player that appears to be on the decline.
Perhaps one of the most crucial aspects of the situation is the United supporters’ attitude towards Rooney. The Old Trafford faithful very rarely get on the backs of their own players, but seem to have lost their respect for a player that is approaching a decade at the club. Many at the ground reserved their judgement on Rooney during the trophy presentation last weekend until learning the facts, but there was still a large section of the support that booed the former Everton man when he received his medal.
The last time Rooney requested to leave Old Trafford in October 2010, the club’s supporters were dismayed and disbelieving. A hardcore has never forgiven the forward for his actions, yet this time round the emotion has been nullified somewhat, perhaps thanks to Ferguson’s retirement, with the general consensus being that bridges have been burnt and should a decent offer come in that will allow new boss Moyes to invest in the squad, he should be sold.
There are a number of quality players that are being linked with moves away from their clubs this summer, not least Cristiano Ronaldo, but also the likes of Radamel Falcao, Gareth Bale, Robert Lewandowski and Edinson Cavani. The feeling around Manchester is that Rooney would happily be sacrificed for such players.
There is little doubt that a fully fit and firing Rooney is a formidable weapon, but the time could be ideal to move on a player that has not been performing to his full potential at what ought to be his peak, and who has lost the respect of a large portion of the club’s supporters.
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