The Wayne Rooney transfer saga has gone on long enough.
It's been months since Sir Alex Ferguson and his 27-year-old forward had a falling-out at Old Trafford. Since then, Rooney has been the subject of transfer speculation at the end of the 2012-13 English Premier League season and on into the summer transfer window.
With just weeks before the 2013-14 EPL season begins, Manchester United should deal Rooney and end what has been a stellar era of football for the club star, albeit with a disappointing few months to finish it.
New boss David Moyes emphatically told CNN reporters on July 5 that his star striker was not for sale, but rumours continue to persist that Rooney is growing disinterested with Manchester United officials, and other clubs are taking full advantage.
According to Ian Herbert and Sam Wallace of The Independent, Rooney is reportedly "confused and angry" about Moyes' comments concerning why the Red Devils really need to keep him in the fold next season.
Speaking in Bangkok and Sydney over the past few days, Rooney is reportedly interpreting Moyes' comments about United needing him in the event of a Robin van Persie injury as an indicator that he's going to have to compete for first-team status again this season.
The Independent report confirmed yet again that Rooney will have to make a formal transfer request if he wants to leave Old Trafford, and that Moyes is not backing off of his original comments about Rooney not being for sale.
That didn't stop Chelsea and Jose Mourinho from taking advantage of the discord at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
According to the Mirror's Darren Lewis, the Blues offered £10 million and either Juan Mata or David Luiz to bring Rooney to Stamford Bridge. Manchester United promptly rejected the bid, staying firm to Moyes' idea that Rooney is a big part of United's continued success.
This tweet from OptaJoe would confirm that the Red Devils are a different team with Rooney in the lineup:
Sky Sports later refuted that Mata was a part of any discussions for Rooney in a potential transfer, further clouding a situation that seems to change every time Rooney takes and leaves the pitch:
Although Red Devils fans might be disappointed in getting rid of Rooney to a club they are going to play twice a year (and maybe more), the fact remains that Rooney could be a potential distraction for a manager who is already under the weight of expectations left behind by one of the most iconic men in football history.
United clearly believe the former Everton man is the right guy for the job, but do they really want to start Moyes' first campaign with the Rooney drama hanging over them?
When this tweet from Sky Sports went out Wednesday afternoon, United fans everywhere were likely cringing (or rejoicing):
Ed Maylon of the Mirror later reported that Woodward's departure had nothing to do with a a Rooney deal, but the damage was already done when the news that the executive was leaving leaked in the first place.
All signs—and guesses—pointed to Rooney as the subject of the tweet. Looking at Wednesday's entire timeline, Rooney went from untouchable Red Devil to unhappy camper to future Blues star to right back in the firm clutches of United in the span of about 12 hours.
Although the transfer window closing will curb some of that circus, potential whispers of Rooney's discomfort (for whatever reason) could threaten to pull the club apart at the seams while waiting for January.
Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain and others have expressed interest in Rooney, according to this Daily Mail report by Adam Crafton, but Chelsea have stayed in the constant rumour conversation each time Rooney's name ventures back out into the "available" market.
As BBC Sport reported on Wednesday afternoon, Chelsea are committed to pooling all of their available resources to land the Mourinho favorite. The Special One spoke to media members after United rejected Chelsea's bid and showed similar adamance that Moyes did about Rooney by stating that Chelsea has not—and will not—bid on anyone other than Rooney.
Although the Blues denied any player-for-player rumours that were reported on Wednesday, the desperation you can feel in Mourinho's comments to the media suggest that the Blues will do whatever it takes to land Rooney this offseason.
If United are smart enough to feel that desperation, there's a good chance they can sell Rooney and reap a hefty reward from Chelsea in the process.
PSG could rival any offer and might be a more attractive landing spot for United to avoid seeing Rooney yearly in the EPL, but Chelsea are taking an all-or-nothing approach where others have been more interested in a wait-and-see system for one of England's biggest stars.
Rooney, who scored 12 goals last year in 22 EPL appearances, is still going to contribute somewhere this year. The turmoil at United has made it unlikely he'll have a normal season at Old Trafford, but there's at least hope Moyes and company can keep their promise before the new season begins.
That being said, Rooney and United should come together on this for the first time in the current transfer window. Instead of heaping undeserved praise on a star or whining about feeling mistreated as a professional athlete, United and Rooney should agree its time to move on.
Rooney's production will be missed, but the emotional impact from this saga could end up being as detrimental as not having his talent in the lineup next year. United have pieces (Shinji Kagawa) to dispatch in Rooney's stead, and Moyes deserves the shine of a fresh start.
If the Red Devils can milk a bit more out of Chelsea in the process, getting rid of Rooney and admitting someone (or multiple ones) made a mistake in handling his discontentment over the past couple of seasons would be a no-brainer.
Keeping him and repeating this saga in the winter months would be a mistake that no one would want to own up to. If Chelsea have the gall enough to submit another formal bid for Rooney to join Frank Lampard and company at Stamford Bridge, it's time for United to accept.
Follow B/R's Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter.