So how did we get here?
Sir Alex Ferguson made the following comments after his final game as a manager at Old Trafford on Sunday, a game Rooney didn't even dress for (via BBC):
"I don't think Wayne was keen to play, simply because he has asked for a transfer," Ferguson added.
Asked whether the England international will stay at the club, Ferguson told the BBC: "It's not my decision now."
However Ferguson earlier told Sky Sports: "We are not going to let him go."
For those keeping score at home, that is now Rooney's second transfer request in the last three years, and this particular one couldn't have come at a worse time. For one, it took a lot of attention away from Sir Alex's retirement from the game, a legend who doesn't deserve to be answering questions about an unhappy player while he says goodbye to the club.
For another, all of Europe now knows he wants out, which means United just lost a bit of leverage in any transfer negotiations. Sure, he's still under contract, so United doesn't have to just give him away. Make no mistake about it, though—United's first priority now will be resolving the Rooney issue.
Yes, you have to give Rooney credit for not publicly saying he desired a transfer or openly complaining about his role on the team. Though his body language has been visibly poor at times when he's been subbed off the pitch, he hasn't gone out of his way to make himself a distraction.
But he most certainly is a distraction now.
He's also the team's second-best forward behind Robin van Persie, meaning he probably will never regain the talisman role he once occupied for the club. His form dipped this season, a prime reason why he was left out of several key games, including the return leg against Real Madrid in the Champions League.
If Rooney isn't willing to drop further into the midfield or play second fiddle to van Persie, how much value does he really hold for the club? Rooney is still a talented footballer, but if he's unhappy and his skills are obviously declining, why not sell him now while he's still sure to garner a huge sum on the transfer market?
And hey, if the team can sell him for a high fee, maybe all of the "Cristiano Ronaldo may return to Old Trafford" rumors could actually come true.
For Rooney, there really isn't any looking back now, is there? Before David Moyes so much as walked through the door, Rooney already let the club know he wanted out. Clearly, he thinks a change of scenery is in order.
If he can find an elite club where he can be the primary forward, it's hard to argue with that sentiment.
Rooney may have taken a step back this year, but we're still talking about a player that scored 35 goals for United in all competitions last season. He's also only 27 years old. Even Ferguson admitted an in-form Rooney would have remained on the pitch for United this year (via Mark Ogden of The Telegraph):
He wasn’t happy about being brought off in games this season. Wayne Rooney in top form wouldn’t be taken off. But we are not going to let him go. I just think he is maybe a bit frustrated about being taken off once or twice in the last few weeks.
Manchester United should...
Rooney should want a more prominent role. United should be wary of a player who requests a transfer every other year and sets the English papers on fire with rumors and speculation every time he does. There is the opportunity for a clean break here that would make sense for both sides.
This has been a long and fruitful relationship between the player and club, but it has run its course. It should be an interesting summer in Manchester, as the Red Devils look poised to both lose their legendary manager and the man who has been their biggest star for several seasons in one summer.
But hey, this is Manchester United—bring on the new era.