Rooney is still a key man for Manchester United
A host of media outlets have reported that the England man is set to explore new pastures after Alex Ferguson left him out of United's second leg clash with Real Madrid. Some reports claim that Rooney may be allowed to leave for a figure as little as £20 million.
But Alex Ferguson should think carefully before moving on a player who has given the club so much in his nine years as a Red Devil. The main reason being he still has a lot to offer United right now and in the future.
It has never really been plain sailing for Wayne Rooney at Manchester United. He has won trophies and scored a bagful of goals, but there have always been murmurings of a frayed relationship with the United manager. Ferguson has apparently never been happy with Rooney's lifestyle in the offseason.
When Rooney submitted a transfer request in 2010, following the initial media mayhem, it was refreshing to see common sense prevail and a decision be made for purely footballing reasons. Rooney signed his contract. Success has since followed.
With the relationship looking turbulent between player and manager yet again, I would urge Manchester United to make another decision solely on footballing premises. Rooney should not be sold.
The Manchester United No. 10 is still a world-class player. His role has changed this season due to the arrival of Robin van Persie, but we have still seen Rooney excel in a more withdrawn position.
He has also chipped in with goals in big games throughout the campaign. His two in the Manchester Derby in particular represented a significant point in United stealing a March title race.
His understanding with Van Persie is also improving week by week. It seems to have been forgotten that this relationship is one of the contributing factors to United's current 12-point lead atop of the Premier League table.
Why break up what promises to be one of the most devastating strike partnerships in European football?
"But he was left out of United's biggest games in recent years!" I hear you say. "It'll be just like when Beckham was left out in 2003 and he was sold."
I can't see that being the case. United aren't going to be playing Real Madrid every week. Ferguson had a clear game plan for this match—attack Madrid in wide areas with Ryan Giggs and Nani, whilst Danny Welbeck was to hassle and hamper Xabi Alonso.
Rooney isn't a wide man and, as Michael Cox points out here on Zonal Marking, Rooney is not the best at man-marking a deep-lying playmaker. He did a poor job on Andrea Pirlo for England in last summer's European Championships, and Ferguson was surely aware of this when studiously plotting his game plan for the Real Madrid encounter.
It is very rare that United have to employ these types of reactive tactics. Apart from games against elite opposition, Ferguson usually puts out his best team and lets the opposition worry about United.
Rooney still makes it into United's best XI and, at the age of 27, he arguably still has some of his best years ahead of him.
He is also a much better foil for Van Persie than rumoured target Robert Lewandowski. The Dortmund man is more of a classic No. 9 than both Rooney and Van Persie. His arrival would see Van Persie drop into the more withdrawn role, especially if Rooney is to depart.
But Van Persie is not as good a No. 10 as Rooney, and Lewandowski is not as good a No. 9 as Van Persie.
Ferguson already has four top-class strikers at his disposal. The apparent money that the United chief is willing to splash on Lewandowski would be better invested in United's creaking central midfield. If United retain the services of Rooney, he may even be able to drop in there himself in the future.
It'd be a massive surprise to see Rooney move on. For me, it is a case of "if it isn't broke, don't fix it." He still has class in abundance and his partnership with Van Persie is starting to blossom. Wayne Rooney certainly isn't broken yet.