The 2012-13 Premier League season was one of unmitigated success for Manchester United. They captured the Premiership crown in dominating fashion, vanquishing all hopes of an impending dynasty from crosstown rival Manchester City in the process.
The summer following that triumphant season looks like it will be one of unmitigated uncertainty at Old Trafford.
Gone is legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson, having finally retired after an unprecedented run of success with the club. The Scottish manager held his post from 1986 until the end of this season, winning 13 Premiership crowns and building arguably the most successful sports franchise this side of the New York Yankees.
In his place is David Moyes, a man Ferguson himself suggested for the post. The 50-year-old Moyes comes over after a lengthy stint at Everton, undoubtedly looking forward to spending the riches that will open up in his new position.
With the arrival of Moyes, though, comes increasing uncertainty about United's roster composition for next season. While Ferguson left Moyes with a cupboard full of stars, many of them seem to be either unhappy or on the precipice of requesting a transfer elsewhere.
Of course, the two most talked-about stars in that coalition of cheerlessness are forward Wayne Rooney and midfielder Nani.
A longtime face of the club, Rooney has become disillusioned with his lessened role since the arrival of Robin van Persie last summer. He has reportedly handed in a transfer request, and the rumors have been flooding in ever since. Nani, also a fixture at Old Trafford, has been unhappy with the lack of progress in his contract renegotiations. With a new manager in tow, things have only gotten more complicated of late.
With that in mind, let's take a quick look at all the latest news on the unhappy stars' status with the club.
Nani to Decide Soon on Future
While Nani's club had a brilliant 2012-13 season, the 26-year-old winger played little role in Manchester United's dominance of the Premier League. His contract, which had been a looming issue even before the season, became a lightning rod of derision, as many fans felt he wasn't playing up to the high wages he was already earning.
In total, Nani played in only 11 Premier League games this season, starting only seven. That number was less than a third of his starts from 2011-12, as a combination of his form, United's depth and nagging injuries cropped up throughout the campaign. The situation reached a head when Nani was sent off in Manchester United's Champions League match versus Real Madrid.
Whether the decision was a fair one or not, it was largely seen as a catalyst to United's ouster. And with a new manager coming in, there has been plenty of speculation about whether the two sides might be better off with a different arrangement. Nani's contract, the one already so oft-criticized, expires after next season.
With plenty of teams kicking the tires for the talented winger, the impetus likely lands at Nani's feet to decide his future. According to a Fox Sports report, Nani plans to do just that within the coming days.
"I have not yet decided where I am going or if I am going," Nani said. "In the next few days I will decide my future."
Should Nani return to Old Trafford?
What comes of that decision will undoubtedly be a story of the summer for Manchester United. While the club has a ton of depth and Nani's form was lacking this past season—he scored just one goal and had two assists in EPL play—he still possesses an undeniable talent level that would be hard to replace.
When Nani is at top form, there aren't many midfield or wing options better than the Portugese star. His excellent improvisational skills make him a force to be reckoned with on every single attack, and his stylish offensive game makes him a fan favorite—at least when he's in their good graces. The problem, however, is that Nani has been an easy target for the Red Devils ever since he lifted the lid on Ferguson's managerial style a few years ago.
There comes a time in nearly every player's life when he has to move on. That time has come for Nani. His run in Manchester United has been a success overall, but going forward as a consistent fixture just doesn't seem to be in the cards. As interest in his name continues to bubble up, expect both sides to look for an amenable exit.
Arsene Wenger Will Have Financial Backing for Rooney if He Desires
It would have been unthinkable 12 months ago that Nani and Wayne Rooney would be in similar standing with their club.
Nani, always a bit of an enigma, was destined to play somewhere else eventually. Rooney, the face of the franchise that for young fans has become as synonymous with the club as Ferguson, was supposed to be the fixture. Rooney would be the guy who never left, the next Ryan Giggs or Paul Scholes. A guy who hung around so long that fans lamented him still being on the roster, but could not bear to criticize him because of all he'd done in the past.
That was supposed to be Wayne Rooney's Manchester United journey. Instead, it's looking increasingly likely that he'll be headed elsewhere, if not this summer then within the next 12 months or so. The 27-year-old forward has denied making an "official" transfer request—a move Ferguson claimed he had made earlier in the season—but there have been no claims of overall happiness with his status with the club.
And it's easy to see where Rooney is coming from. As he battled through injuries early in the campaign, he was essentially replaced by van Persie, Ferguson's big summer splash from 2012. While van Persie would go on to lead Manchester United and the Premier League in goals, Rooney was stuck oscillating between positions on almost a weekly basis.
Ferguson even placed Rooney in the midfield in hopes of seeing him find a better form. Unsurprisingly, this wasn't exactly a pleasant experience. Rooney even admitted earlier this week in Four Four Two magazine (h/t ESPN) that he doesn't see himself playing midfield going forward.
"No. In the years to come that might be somewhere I could play, but right now, I'm definitely a centre-forward. I'm after more goals," Rooney said.
The most recent—and perhaps most interesting—inquiry has come from Arsenal. Manager Arsene Wenger spoke with the Daily Express' Paul Joyce and noted that he would more than welcome adding Rooney to his roster.
“Rooney could be an interesting player for everybody in the world," Wenger said. "Who would turn him down?”
With that one comment, the rumor mill went swirling. The overarching problem, as any Arsenal fan would attest, is that the Gunners are a notoriously frugal club. Wenger has cut his teeth on the ability to foster young talent, avoiding major splashes to develop younger players who stick around long-term. So even if Wenger were interested, Arsenal surely wouldn't be willing to pay Rooney's wages, right?
Where will Wayne Rooney play next season?
Well...don't be so assumptive. Chief executive Ivan Gazidis spoke with the Express' James Dickenson and insinuated that Wenger would get the financial backing for a Rooney-level player should he request it.
"If Arsene thinks signing big names is the right thing to do, [then] yes [we will do]," Gazidis said. "This year we are beginning to see escalation in our financial firepower."
It's a position that might come with skepticism for some, but we've certainly seen crazier things happen in past summers. This Rooney saga isn't going anywhere until either side gives a definitive answer on their desires.
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