As he trudged off the Upton Park pitch on Wednesday, with his team trailing by a single goal and 20 minutes still left on the clock, the message seemed clear: Wayne Rooney is no longer a player that his manager relies upon to help Manchester United win a game.
Or at least, that's the interpretation that much of the global media seems to have taken from the situation.
Yet again, Rooney has been linked with a move away from Old Trafford this summer, most recently to French champions-in-waiting Paris Saint-Germain (via Daily Mail), while Alex Ferguson continues to refute the idea (via BBC). Elsewhere, there are claims that Rooney has demanded a new contract from the club this summer to prove to him that they still want him (via Mirror).
Is the talk all it's cracked up to be? Or is the "Rooney Move" simply the media rumour of the month, ahead of the real action in the close season?
What are the chances?
Speculation started up rather more seriously when United opted to leave Rooney on the bench for the UEFA Champions League tie against Real Madrid last month.
Rooney has scored just twice in his last seven league appearances and has 12 league goals this season in total, way behind his 27-goal haul from last term.
At 27 years of age, Rooney should be entering his real prime right now, but there seems to be a nagging suspicion that he has never quite hit the absolute heights he seemed capable of, despite being a regular for Manchester United for years now. He has two years remaining on his present contract, meaning that this summer would seem to be the ideal moment for his club if United decided they wanted to offload him—they'd be able to command a hefty fee for him this year.
Next season, he would have the dreaded "one year remaining," when a player's value can plummet (aside from if his name is Robin van Persie, apparently), and the selling side risks the player seeing out the final year of his contract and leaving on a free transfer.
Should he not be on the outgoing list at Old Trafford, a new contract might be likely.
Where could he go?
Forget the rumours for a moment. Who could afford Rooney, and where would he fit?
The options appear to be limited. Unless Inter Milan decide they want him—and it's far from certain they'll have any kind of European football next season—then Italy is pretty much out.
Over in Germany, Pep Guardiola might fancy him for Bayern Munich, but with Claudio Pizarro, Mario Gomez and Mario Mandzukic on their books, they have one of the most reliable and potent strike forces around.
Real Madrid, PSG or two rival Premier League clubs, Chelsea and Manchester City, appear to be the only even remotely possible destinations. All have the financial muscle and would probably take the forward. Zlatan and Rooney? Sounds intriguing. Rooney to Man City, less so.
What about Manchester United?
Rumours persist that United will be looking for a striker in summer, with Radamel Falcao said to be top of their wanted list (via ESPN). But does a striker arriving preclude the inclusion of Rooney in team selections? Certainly not.
He has played largely as a support striker in his time at United, as a pairing, but he can also operate either from one flank or in a deeper midfield role. It might not be his usual role, or his preferred one, but he can certainly do a good job there, and if it keeps him in the team he'll likely be happy to do it.
Where will Wayne Rooney be playing next season?
Given the poor defending from some Premier League sides this season, it might be interesting to see United attempt to play Rooney and a winger or two, and two forwards. Alternatively, United might be looking for further reinforcements in attack to bolster a challenge for Europe next season.
Nobody can say for sure what Ferguson will decide to do. Most would not have suspected he would have let Ruud van Nistelrooy go, or Cristiano Ronaldo, or Jaap Stam. Rooney is, after all, just another in a long line of top stars who have represented United—and left.
The manager might well have it in his mind to bring in another attacker this summer...but the smart money would be on that new name coming in to play alongside Rooney, not instead of him.