The close season. That time of the year when talk is still cheap but sells newspapers. For weeks now, there has been chat about who fancies who, who is willing to cheat on their owner and how desperate they are to move on. In the Premier League, this hyperbole goes in overdrive between June and September as the transfer window opens a fresh glimpse into hell for anyone who hates speculation.
Of course, Manchester United are one of the main players in this whole shebang whether they like it or not. Being the biggest club in England means that headlines, no matter how spurious, will guarantee sales. In Wayne Rooney, the club also has one of the country’s highest profile stars and the national team’s best player. Since he was dropped from the second leg of the tie against Real Madrid, he has seemingly wanted out of Old Trafford yet as the season comes into sharp focus he is still on the books.
There is still time for a move to be confirmed as Robin van Persie proved with his transfer late in the window last year. Importantly, there are also parties that have declared interest as Chelsea confirmed by bidding big money twice. But could any United fan really stomach seeing Rooney in a royal blue shirt appearing out of the tunnel come August 26? Moving an unhappy player on is one thing, moving him onto one of your closest domestic rivals is quite another.
The prospect is stomach churning as the match up with Chelsea is almost perfectly suited and in Jose Mourinho, Wayne has a motivator proven to get the most out of his players. Imagine what Chelsea could do with a fully dedicated Rooney instead of having the stumbling ghost of a striker known as Fernando Torres.
With Rooney as the main man again being supplied by the likes of Juan Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard there lies a devastating forward line to be well and truly feared. Just as City fans cite Van Persie’s signing as the main reason for their failure to retain the league title, Rooney’s possible transfer to Stamford Bridge has a similar potential for league domination or despair depending on which way you look at it.
This is where the conundrum lies. Undoubtedly, United would be better off getting rid of a player who does not want to be there. Whether Rooney wants a new challenge or simply that the presence of Sir Alex Ferguson and his glaring omission from numerous team sheets still lingers is up for debate.
What cannot be ignored is that towards the end of last season, Rooney appeared to be a man who had lost his mojo. Playing second fiddle to Van Persie and being forced back into an attacking midfield role had seemingly neutered his hunger to play for the shirt. Oh how he must regret demanding better players as, ironically, such better players could be forcing his way to the door.
There are also off the field problems that this gesticulating will create. Rooney is yet to appear in United’s pre-season which may be a good thing for all concerned. His rather blatant search for a new employer would create animosity in the dressing room and affect team morale. Such an issue is not one you want around, especially with a new manager wanting to take charge.
Looking from the outside in this all looks a bit childish on Rooney’s part. Grandmothers, girlfriends and anyone with even a passing interest in football will have noted that he had a weight problem last season, it was that obvious. That a professional footballer being paid over £250,000 a week should not be physically fit to do the job is nothing short of insulting. The kebabs and pitchers can wait until retirement, then he has the time to look back on a career in which he could end up as United’s leading goalscorer.
Most former players will confirm that leaving Old Trafford is a step down. Not only does an exit diminish chances of silverware but the family feel of the club is such that many simply miss the adoration. Leaving like this to a domestic rival would sever his relationship with United, a club that takes in its own after retirement in ambassadorial and in-house media roles. For the club, the commercial effect would also be detrimental. While Rooney is playing second-fiddle to Van Persie on the pitch, he is also second in terms of names on shirts from the Premier League too.
If PSG or Real Madrid came in for him, his departure would be far easier to stomach. Cristiano Ronaldo’s brief return last season was weird enough yet to see Rooney charge across the pitch every week on Match of The Day in a blue shirt is a sight that many would find difficult. United fans know what a talented footballer he has been, is and could still be yet the prospect of letting such a talent go to a domestic rival is perhaps the hardest part of this all.