Even in his final home match as manager of Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson sent a message.
When the team sheets came out ahead of Sunday’s match against Swansea, Wayne Rooney’s name was nowhere to be found. Not in the starting XI; not among the substitutes.
The forward Ferguson had signed from current Everton and incoming United boss David Moyes for more than £25 million back in 2004, and whose acquisition signalled the arrival of a new era of dominance at Old Trafford, had been completely omitted from the 71-year-old’s plans on the occasion of his retirement.
The two exchanged a gruff handshake during the trophy celebration following the match, and as Rooney accepted his Premier League winners’ medal he was greeted with boos and jeers from the stands.
In his post-match remarks Ferguson revealed why Rooney had been left to watch history unfold from the executive suites.
“I don’t think Wayne was keen to play, simply because he has asked for a transfer,” Ferguson said, adding, “I think he wants to think it through in his mind, and I think that’s a good idea. We have refused [the transfer request]. I think he should go away and think about it again, but it’s not my decision now.” (Telegraph)
It seems Rooney, frustrated at being left out of key matches and withdrawn prematurely in others, asked to leave United some weeks ago—before news of Ferguson’s retirement went public—and in the days since his request came to light he has been linked with moves to both Bayern Munich (Mirror) and Chelsea (Daily Mail).
Late last month there was also talk a move to Paris Saint-Germain had already been agreed, with former PSG advisor Michel Moulin calling Rooney’s transfer from United a “done deal.” (Independent)
But what, exactly, would a move away from Old Trafford accomplish? Does Rooney actually think he’ll be more appreciated elsewhere? Or is he merely trying to escape his current situation?
No matter what scenarios are playing through in his mind, the one that makes the most sense is to sit down with Moyes, express a desire to remain at the club and win a regular place in the new regime and, at some point, begin negotiating another contract with United.
Because if he thinks his lot will be somehow easier at another club, he’s having a laugh.
Under no circumstances would he be able to simply walk into Pep Guardiola’s starting lineup at Bayern, and there’s no way Jose Mourinho, who will likely retake the reins at Chelsea in a few weeks’ time, would offer a guarantee of first-team football based solely on the 27-year-old’s reputation, either.
At United, on the other hand, he’d only have to string a few impact performances together in order to force himself into Moyes’ long-term plans. And he’s certainly capable of doing that. Of course, that’s assuming he has actually buried the hatchet with Moyes, who sued him for libel following the publication of his 2007 autobiography.
But at 27 years of age, with trophies and goals and a sizable wage packet to his name, Rooney is in that awkward position of being unaffordable to most and surplus to requirements to everyone else.
As former United right-back and current television pundit Gary Neville said after Sunday’s match, “there is nowhere [for Rooney] to go from here.” (Telegraph)
Neville continued: “Ryan Giggs, when he was around 27 or 28, there were rumours of him moving to Italy, but he has been through that and he could do worse than have a chat with Wayne at this moment.”
Such a conversation would have significantly more influence not only on Rooney’s United status, but also on his overall playing future than an ill-conceived move to another club.
Right now the best thing for Wayne Rooney would be to suck it up, get down to business and report for training ambitious and in good shape, ready to prove everyone wrong.