The newspapers have predictably been doing the rounds this week after Rooney's absence from the starting line-up against Real Madrid on Tuesday, declaring in no uncertain terms that United are ready to cash in on their previously star striker, with reports ranging from £20-40 million for his services. While these stories are based largely in conjecture and personal opinion, imagine for a second, regardless of your stance on Rooney, what the club could do should they sell him on in the summer.
Talk has been rife concerning Borussia Dortmund's Robert Lewandowski, while Cristiano Ronaldo's name has been rather fancifully banded about in conjunction with the club. Whether you believe Rooney to have underperformed in the last few years or not, if he were to leave Old Trafford, not only would it leave a sizeable hole in the team, it would open up avenues for the recruitment of further talent.
Here are a just a few ideas if the rumours come to fruition and Fergie does decide to sell up.
The talented Pole has been a staple fixture in Jurgen Klopp's rampaging Borussia Dortmund side since his transfer from Lech Poznan three seasons ago. With sixty-two goals to his name, as well as a solid showing at Euro 2012, the Polish frontman has attracted the attention of Manchester United on several occasions. With Dortmund director Michael Dorc announcing that Lewandowski will not be renewing his current deal and is likely to leave in the Summer of 2013, could the 19-time English champions be his destination?
If Rooney were to leave it does offer up the possibility for a return to Ferguson's classic 4-4-2 formation with the Pole leading the line and van Persie floating. Lewandowski is prolific in the air as well as with his feet, so he will offer a genuine target for United's traditionally winger-favoured system. Alternatively, he has the ability to hold the ball up and bring others into play, which could hint at a continuation of the 4-2-3-1 set-up, with a mobile tandem of three operating in behind.
Shinji Kagawa has come to the fore post-Christmas and is well-versed in Lewandowski's game having spent two seasons playing alongside him at Dortmund—where, incidentally, they recorded back to back Bundesliga titles. The movement and creativity of van Persie, Kagawa and Lewandowski would pose a serious threat to any side in Europe.
While less "creative" in his play than Rooney, for Lewandowski operates more-or-less as your out-and-out striker, Man United already have a wealth of innovation going forward. The whole team has contributed to United's formidable goal-scoring exploits this season, but van Persie stands alone with the sheer number of goals he's scored. Imagine having two strikers capable of hitting the 20-goal mark? It'd be like the white Cole and Yorke.
Daniele De Rossi
Although age isn't on the side of the Roma defensive midfielder, circumstances at the Italian club could be pointing towards a departure for the combative De Rossi. Long touted as one of the most influential midfielders in the Serie A, if not Europe, De Rossi has remained faithful to his boyhood club, despite the apparent overtures of Manchester City and long-time admirer, Roberto Mancini.
However, since last season's protracted transfer stories, which culminated with De Rossi signing a new deal with the Giallorossi, things haven't been so rosy in the capital. Club legend and captain Francesco Totti has been predicted to hand over the reigns to his general in waiting, but under Zdenek Zeman, the 36-year-old Totti has found a new lease of life, and appears to have left De Rossi floundering.
Despite conditions in the capital, De Rossi would still be an asset to any side, especially one such as Manchester United who have found it tough going in the middle of the park at times. With Darren Fletcher ruled out indefinitely and Anderson failing to live up to his billing, it leaves Ferguson's side with only one central midfielder who is willing to get "stuck in" in Michael Carrick.
If Rooney left Old Trafford, it could see Kagawa being given the position in behind van Persie. With the Japanese international admitting he finds the defensive side of his game needs a lot of attention, it could be more prudent to bring someone like De Rossi in to influence proceedings in the middle of the pitch. He's tough, determined and committed, not to mention a ferocious tackler, a good distributor of the ball and a player whom makes a genuine effort to cover every blade of grass. Twice.
He may have signed a new deal with AS Roma last summer, but if Zeman is to stay and continue to propagate his attack-heavy "you score 3, we'll score six" philosophy, then we can dream Il Gladiatore could be on his way to Manchester. At least Roy Keane would be happy.
Domenico Criscito or Cristian Ansaldi
The left-back berth at Old Trafford is still up for contention thanks to Patrice Evra's continued efforts to convince us all that he's legitimately forgotten how to defend. Despite an earth-shattering four goals this season (from a man who's previously scored two in five years) which has led pundits and fans to conclude he's finally found his form again, Evra still continues to baffle with his bemusing decision-making at the back. Whether he's dashing after a ball he cannot hope to reach, drifting infield to leave the left-flank exposed or simply stroking a timid backpass to keep De Gea on his toes, it is long past the time to look to other options.
Two of the most promising left-backs in European football can be found nestled in the snowy reaches of the Russia Premier League with Italian international Domenico Criscito and the Argentine Cristian Ansaldi. If Rooney was to say goodbye to Manchester United, the funds could be used to finally rectify that pesky left-back position that Evra has had a monopoly on for too long.
Criscito and Ansaldi are both fully competent full-backs but with markedly different styles. The Italian is tactically astute as you'd expect, but combines a silkiness to his play that complements his efficiency. A good crosser, he makes surging overlapping runs and is a great carrier of the ball.
Although Ansaldi isn't a donkey when in possession, his game revolves more around the physical and aggressive side of the game. In the same vein as Gabriel Heinze, Ansaldi likes to steam into challenges and distribute the ball accordingly. Also, similarly to Criscito he bursts up and down the flank, often supporting the wingers in attacking forays.
Interestingly, in contrast to "one-position Evra" both Criscito and Ansaldi are versatile: The former can operate effectively at centre-back, while the latter is ambidextrous and can play on both flanks, at full-back and wide midfield.
While it would seem preposterous that Real Madrid would sell their star asset whom they acquired for £80 million less than four seasons ago, it appears equally unfathomable that he would return to the club from where he came, especially considering the debt they are currently in. However, Cristiano Ronaldo has been frequently linked with a surprising return to Old Trafford after sensation claims the Portguese ace is unhappy with life in the Spanish capital and refusing to sign an extension to his current deal.
If you can work your way around the price tag that is to accompany such a move (papers have been wetting themselves amid rumours that Rooney could serve as a makeweight in the deal) then you would be left with the tantalising notion of Ronaldo and van Persie fronting a terrifying United attack. At the beginning of the season the Rooney/van Persie combination stoked images of glory, but has so far failed to fully materialise, however, van Persie has been a revelation in a United shirt, and joined by club legend Ronaldo, the possibilities are endless.
The most prolific striker in the Premier League coupled with the greatest footballer in the world: What could honestly go wrong? If one has an off-game, who cares, you've still got a second forward of immeasurable skill to do the business.
Ronaldo wouldn't likely be confined to his old right-wing position, rather he'd be given the licence to roam, probably drifting in from the left-wing, and interchanging with van Persie and Kagawa—two players who offer fluidity in the final third.
More likely than Rooney's departure is that of Nani's who has been linked with moves away from the club for the majority of the season. If he were to follow Rooney out of the hypothetical Old Trafford exit, then it leaves the club with just Antonio Valencia and the inconsistent Ashley Young as their recognised wingers.
Step forward Albert Crusat. Nevermind Torres, Xabi Alonso and Mata, Spain's greatest export to the Premier League comes in the diminutive form of Wigan left-winger, Albert Crusat. Shipped out after UD Almeria's relegation two seasons ago, the former Barcelona B man has found life difficult under Roberto Martinez. Injury has constricted his performances, while the baffling decision to play Jean Beausejour on the left-flank has limited his appearances even more.
However, with pace a key element of the modern game, the genuinely fastest player in the world could inject an abundance of rapidity into the United front line. He may not be a prolific goalscorer, nor a frequent provider of assists, but, hey, Theo Walcott has been alright up until now. Crusat's so quick he makes little Theo look like a bumbling Daniel van Buyten.
It could be time to give Dave Whelan a ring and put in a cheeky offer. In fact, the Wigan chairman is probably quite oblivious to the fact Mr. Crusat even plays at his club. It's a bargain waiting to be claimed.