Wayne Rooney is arguably the greatest player in the history of Manchester United. He has more goals than anyone else in the clubs history, scoring his 252nd in a recent match vs Swansea from the penalty spot. Over the past couple of seasons, however, Rooney’s legacy has begun to fade. From contract disputes to poor form, Rooney has become more of a headache than a blessing. Is he best up top, playing as a striker? Can he play in the midfield? Should he still be the captain of the club? One thing is for certain. At the end of the season, Rooney and the club should part ways in the summer.
No manager since Sir Alex has been able to get the best out of Rooney. Moyes trusted him up top as the main striker, but a 7th place finish that season shows how well that worked. Van Gaal played Rooney farther back, mostly as a centre midfielder. LvG hoped that Rooney’s long passing and vision would suit him in this new role. Instead, he usually was a step behind, and would be outclassed by proper midfielders. Mourinho insisted that he would give Rooney a chance up top, but when he was unable to link up with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, he was moved back to centre midfield. José even tried Rooney at the left wing position. After some promising performances, Rooney’s lack of pace prevented him from creating down the side. Now, Rooney has been reduced to a squad player, coming in when others need a rest.
Rooney’s last chance may have come vs Arsenal over the weekend. With some incredible performances against the London club over the years, fans hoped some of the magic of old would return. Instead, Rooney looked lost and out of the game from the first whistle. In the first half, a poor back-pass from Holding put Rooney 1 on 1 with Cech. Eyes grew wide as Man United were given an easy chance to take a crucial lead. Instead of slotting the ball in the back of the net like he had done countless of times in his career, Rooney fluffed his lines, and hit it right at the Arsenal goalkeeper. Arsenal went on to win the game, and kill off any realistic hopes at a top 4 finish for United.
This also may be the last chance for United to get anything back from selling Rooney. His contract does not expire until June 2019, so United can still get a transfer fee from the sale. There are still parties interested in Rooney. Everton, his boyhood club, would love to bring the former prodigy back home. They will have to deal with the Europa League next season, and Rooney could play a valuable role for them. Major League Soccer is also a possibility. MLS has some advantages. Great infrastructure, growing popularity, and Rooney won’t have to learn a new language. If he has any questions, he can always ring up old teammate David Beckham, who was a pioneer for the game in the States. Last but not least, China could could bring him over. Any Chinese League team could throw a blank check to Rooney, and cover any transfer fee United ask of them. It would be a less pressured situation, and Rooney would become a poster boy for the league. If Rooney stays, and further deteriorates his own status, the offers may dry up.
Rooney can still serve a purpose until the end of the season. Squad depth is crucial this late in the year, especially with the amount of injuries that United have to deal with. His experience in winning trophies will be helpful in the locker room, and he’ll get to lift the Europa League trophy if Manchester go on to win the tournament. That may also be the perfect chance for Rooney to go out on top, and walk away from the club as a winner.