But with the official retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson on Wednesday, further doubt was cast on the Old Trafford future of the Red Devils' No. 10.
While a club spokesperson definitively told the BBC that "Wayne Rooney is not for sale," perhaps United doth protest too much.
According to The Times:
The England striker went to see Sir Alex Ferguson, United’s outgoing manager, about a fortnight ago when he asked to leave the club for the second time in less than three years only to be told by the Scot that he would not be allowed to transfer.
With Fergie following United Chief Executive David Gill out the door—and current Everton manager David Moyes taking the reins—this will be an offseason of transition for the Red Devils. Perhaps it's the perfect time for Rooney and United to part ways.
If Rooney were to leave Manchester United after nine largely brilliant seasons, Moyes and Co. would certainly be looking to make a big splash in the transfer window.
"Who could be Rooney's replacement in the lineup?" you ask. "Who could be Lil Wayne's hair apparent?"
Oh, a bit of background.
If you're merely a fan of the on-pitch aspects of football—you know, the boring parts—you might not recall that two years ago, the young but balding Wazza underwent a type of hair transplant called "follicular unit extraction."
As Rooney wrote in his book, My Decade in the Premier League (as quoted in the Mirror):
It’s a transplant, bits of hair taken from the back of my head and surgically stuck to the front.
Despite the comments in a few magazines and the jokes from mates, I think it looks alright.
"I knew that if I went on holiday with thinning hair and come back looking like Andy Carroll they’ll slaughter me," Rooney wrote (per the Mirror), "especially if it went wrong, because that’s the way footballers are.
"But they still slaughter me! ‘Oi, Wazza,’ someone shouts. ‘Are you going to grow a ponytail?’
Based on this image, it's probably not the best of ideas.
So, as we examine possible replacements for Rooney in the Man United starting XI, we'll do it not only with regard to the player's ability to compete on the pitch, but also taking into consideration how his hair style might stand in for Rooney's.
Could Cristiano Ronaldo be headed back to Old Trafford to take Rooney's place?
The former Red Devils star and current Real Madrid man is far and away the most hyped name said to be on United's wish list for the summer.
As the Daily Mail reported:
[It] emerged that outgoing United chief executive David Gill has been in Madrid to meet Jorge Mendes, the Portuguese super-agent who represents Ronaldo. Sources on Wednesday night insisted United are confident of securing the return of the player they sold to Real Madrid for a world record £80 million in 2009. ...
[Sir Alex] Ferguson has made no secret of wanting to see the former world player of the year return. When United met Madrid in the Champions League earlier this season, Ferguson said: ‘Was I tempted to bring him back? Yes. He’s still in the hamper.’
If United were to sell Rooney, they'd likely have the funny money required to bring back the Portuguese winger.
And while Ronaldo might not be a man-for-man substitution for Rooney in the United lineup, something tells me Moyes would find a place for him.
The improvements in speed, power, shooting ability, in the air and—most importantly—in the hair would be evident from the get-go.
Another widely regarded subject of United's pursuit is Atletico Madrid striker Falcao.
Transfer rumours (like this in the Daily Mail) have circulated for months suggesting that United could pay £27 million plus Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez in exchange for the 27-year-old Colombian, who has scored 26 goals in 31 La Liga contests this season.
Falcao even offered up some praise for the outgoing United manager on Twitter:
Stand up, put your hands together and give him a big round of applause! Sir Alex Ferguson is retiring. Congrats for an amazing career!— Radamel Falcao (@FALCAO) May 8, 2013
While his propensity for goal-scoring suggests he'd work magic alongside Robin van Persie, Danny Welbeck and Shinji Kagawa, is Falcao a worthy replacement for Rooney?
If it comes down to the hair, Falcao's Colombian coif stands head-and-shoulders above Rooney's surgically enhanced scalp.
Another much-bandied-about option for Manchester United, should Rooney leave, is Tottenham Hotspur's PFA and FWA player of the year, Gareth Bale.
If Spurs don't earn a top-four finish and a spot in the Champions League next season, there's plenty of speculation tying Bale to a big-money (maybe as much as £110 million) move to Real Madrid this summer (via the Mirror).
The Scot has been disappointed with the displays put in by wide-men Luis Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young and Nani and though the Old Trafford boss will welcome Crystal Palace youngster Wilfried Zaha to the club he is looking to bring in the 23-year-old White Hart Lane star as a ‘marquee’ signing this summer.
With his 20 goals in 32 Premier League matches, the 23-year-old Wales national would provide a more youthful, Ronaldo-like boost to the United attack and would give Moyes a shiny, new talisman to trot out on his debut.
Furthermore, Bale's Welsh weave would be an unwavering improvement over Rooney's despondent dome.
If Rooney leaves Old Trafford, how about David Moyes bringing with him a player with whom he's already intimately familiar? Cue Everton's Belgian midfielder Marouane Fellaini.
Manchester United was apparently scouting the 25-year-old earlier this season (according to Caught Offside), and following a campaign in which he's broken out with 12 goals in all competitions, Fellaini's value has never been higher. There is also a £23 million escape clause in his contract—one that Everton could not contest—that United would have no problem doling out.
And who among Red Devils fans wouldn't love watching his bountiful Belgian bush bouncing around the pitch?
Yes, he's a longshot. But if Rooney were to exit, what about Manchester United targeting Brazilian wunderkind Neymar?
While most see Spain as the likely destination for the 21-year-old should he make the move to Europe (via the Daily Mail), there were reports (per the International Business Times) that United had made an offer for the talented youngster in the January window.
Neymar has the speed, skill and style to adequately stand in for Rooney, but does he have the physique to stand up to the rigors of the Prem? Only time will tell.
Whatever the case, his brash Brazilian bangs would be a huge hit in the British tabloids.