Speculation regarding Wayne Rooney’s future at Manchester United has reached fever pitch recently since he broke Sir Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record and confirmed himself in the United history books. It is a record that is unlikely to be broken anytime soon.
It is obvious that Jose Mourinho has been gradually phasing his captain out of the team throughout the season to the extent now that his place on the bench is not even guaranteed.
Rooney has been in decline for some time, something which Sir Alex Ferguson spotted in his last season. An example of this was when Rooney was demoted to the bench for the crunch Champions League game against Real Madrid that season. It was very similar to when David Beckham was also benched in the Champions League against the same club, for whom he signed shortly after.
If Fergie had stayed one more season even, it is plausible he would have been happy to sell him to Chelsea. However, David Moyes and then Louis van Gaal persisted with him despite a string of poor performances much to the frustration of United fans.
Rooney has had his critics in the last few years, mostly from his own supporters, and rightly so because he has not been up to scratch. But he should be remembered for the great player he was at his best.
It is easy to forget what a player Rooney used to be; he was a monster. Teams used to be terrified at the very sight of the English forward who generally ate defences up for breakfast. Rooney also linked up with a number of top class forwards including Ruud van Nistelrooy, Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Robin van Persie.
He was adaptable to change, unselfish with an incredible work ethic and most importantly loved playing football. It is only natural that after a longer career than most, he has declined.
Rooney still loves playing football but it looks as if he will have to move to pastures new soon.
A source close to the Rooney camp revealed to the Daily Mail that ‘The writing is on the wall for Wayne. He can see what’s happening. He’s playing less and believes he still has a lot to give. He won’t want to continue here like this.’
Meanwhile, the club’s position on the matter is similarly clear, which Jose Mourinho all but confirmed in his pre-match press conference ahead of the return leg at St-Etienne when asked if Rooney would stay.
“Of course I can’t guarantee. I cannot guarantee that I’m here next week, how can I guarantee that a player is here next season? What I can guarantee is that if one day Wayne leaves the club it is not because I want him to leave. I would never push a legend of this club to another destiny.
“You have to ask him if he sees himself staying in the club for the rest of his career or sees himself moving. It is not a question for me because I am happy to have him. I was very open with you in the answer. I don’t want him to leave.”
He also had similar comments concerning Morgan Schneiderlin and Memphis Depay, who shortly left to join Everton and Lyon respectively.
An amicable split is likely between player and club but it would be surprising if that was next week. United need to make the most out of the big squad they have as they continue to fight on all four fronts with a hectic schedule to come. Rooney can still make a contribution to the rest of the season even if it is small.
However, it would be a shock if he were to still be at Old Trafford by the start of next season. The wheels appear to be in motion for his exit and when that does happen, although United fans have mixed opinions on their skipper for various reasons, he deserves to be celebrated.
Antoine Griezmann is strongly believed to be United’s number one target to replace Wayne Rooney and that would be a significant upgrade if the Old Trafford brass can pull off such a coup.