Two things have been a constant in Wayne Rooney’s career. Goals and transfer rumours. The forward is a regular feature on the back pages of most newspapers, be it a move to Chelsea, Real Madrid or more recently a move to the newly found riches of Chinese football. Despite this, he remains club captain at Manchester United, but for how much longer?
Today Rooney himself confirmed that he was to stay at the Manchester club for the foreseeable future, but that’s unlikely to stop the rumour mills flowing. It’s no secret that Rooney is currently playing second fiddle to the dynamic duo of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata and the character he is won’t want this to continue. A key part of Rooney’s character is his school boy like desire to simply play football. The bench has never been a part of Rooney’s future plans, with the England captain putting up with a number of position changes to ensure he is always in the manager’s plans. The issue for Rooney is his wage demands, reported to be in the region of £300,000 there are very few of the top teams who could afford him, and even fewer who believe they need someone who many consider to be on the downwards spiral.
But could United keep him?
The situation at the minute seems like Rooney will continue at United and try and force his way back into the side. The forward may not be at the level he was a few years ago, but he’s still as close as possible to being a legend at Manchester United, surely that counts for something?
If Rooney is going to use the legend tag as a way of negotiating with United, then he’ at the right club to do so. Old Trafford is a place famous for its respect shown to the former players. Paul Scholes was brought back from retirement, Ryan Giggs was elevated to assistant manager once he retired, even just listening to the Stretford End for 90 minutes and you’ll hear just as many songs and chants dedicated to former stars than those who wear the badge today. But Rooney’s legend status is hotly debated among the United faithful. No-one discredits what he’s done for the club, his impressive trophy haul and historic goalscoring record prove he’s still one of the best to wear the shirt. But his transfer demand history and tendency to threaten a transfer to rivals leave many uncomfortable with placing him on the same level as Best, Charlton and Law.
There are still a number of Rooney fans who believe him to be worthy of a starting place in the side, his work rate and desire to win still keep him held in high regards by pockets of United fans. Unfortunately for the forward, the stats don’t show it. According to whoscored.com, this is Rooney’s worst season in terms of average rating 6.82 per game compared to a career average of 7.41 per game. His average shots per game is also down, it currently sits at 1.5 for the season whereas his career average shots per game is 3.4.
Statisitics aside, the experienced forward is still always capable of popping up with important goals and contributions. Rooney can claim to have been crucial to United winning the FA Cup under Louis van Gaal. Rooney driving from deep tore through the Crystal Palace defence before lofting a near perfect ball to the far post where Marouane Fellaini knocked it down to give Mata a straightforward finish. This season, when United were struggling against Stoke he struck home a beautiful and important free kick to salvage a point for Jose’s side. Whilst the stats may not show it, there is still a usefulness to Rooney’s presence.
In truth, many acknowledge that Rooney’s time at United is as good as finished. As a pure number 9, Zlatan will start ahead of him. In the number 10 position both Mhiktaryan and Mata are ahead of him in the pecking order and he’s highly unlikely to replace the currently settled midfield duo of Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba. Rooney will have to either accept a super sub role or begin to look abroad.
China or the USA?
The riches of China or the higher standard of football in the USA? If Rooney is truly serious about not taking a pay cut then China seems the obvious option, whilst the MLS may be known as a retirement league for European stars, it’s highly unlikely any of the teams would be willing to shell out £300,000 a week. But Rooney is a player who is still Premier League quality, he’s England captain and has stated his desire to continue in the role. A move to the low standards of China would certainly be international career suicide. The money may be there but the standard needed simply isn’t. The USA almost has the quality but the cash isn’t there. Serie A may have been a more impressive option for the United forward. It is still a quality league that will keep him in England contention, but still a step down from top 4 in the Premier League standard needed to get him back in a side. Unfortunately, it would still require a wage cut. If Rooney does end up eventually backing down and taking the cut, a move to Premier League mid-table would surely be a more attractive prospect., such as a move back to his boyhood club, Everton.