According to Jonathan Northcroft and Duncan Castles of the Sunday Times, speculation is growing that Wayne Rooney’s Manchester United career could be nearing its final chapter. It is the latest in a constant stream of media speculation which commenced late last season, following Rooney’s demotion down the Red Devils pecking order.
While United have been jollying it up in Sydney, Rooney is understood to be riled by David Moyes’ comments last week. According to the BBC, the Scot classified Rooney as a fringe player: "Overall, my thought on Wayne is that if for any reason we had an injury to Robin van Persie we are going to need him. I want as many options as possible."
However, Moyes has personally assured Rooney that he does have a future with the Premier League champions and that his comments were simply taken out of context. Easily done. Despite this, Rooney himself knows that United can live without him—an unthinkable notion a few seasons ago.
What’s changed? Robin van Persie.
Two years older than his peer, the Dutchman arrived at Old Trafford last summer under scrutiny since United parted with £24 million for a player with a colourful injury record and with only 12 months of his contract remaining.
Van Persie has proven he was a risk worth taking by effortlessly cementing his status as United’s undisputed No. 1 forward—26 Premier League goals from 35 starts plus eight assists.
Rather than display any role-model qualities and fight for his place, Rooney has thrown his toys out of what would be a giant-sized pram (particularly during close season). Lightning does indeed strike twice. It was only in 2010 when he regrettably submitted a transfer request because, according to him, the Red Devils were not quite up to scratch.
Sir Alex Ferguson put an arm around him and offered the ex-Evertonian a bumper new contract, effectively tucking a few quid in his shirt pocket—“there, there Wayne,” said the imagination.
Either way, all was soon well, and Rooney rediscovered his hunger.
Notwithstanding flashes of sheer and undeniable brilliance, such as the overhead-kick winner against Manchester City in 2011, moments of that caliber have been painfully rare. Is it time for Rooney to move on?
Last Tuesday Sky Sports reported that admirers Chelsea were in active pursuit. Jose Mourinho fanned the flames of speculation, declaring that the Three Lions would suffer if Rooney failed to be a first-choice selection for his club—“If Wayne is a second choice for Manchester United, then the national team will be affected."
After failing with a alleged £20 million bid last week, the West Londoners do not seem discouraged. That said, United historically have never sold top-quality players to their rivals. With two years left on Rooney’s contract, new chief executive Ed Woodward was reported by the Guardian defiantly affirming, “Would we be afraid to run a contract down? Of course not."
That may be a smokescreen to ensure Chelsea return to the bargaining table with a vast improvement on their previous bid, but either way, they are ominous words for both Wayne Rooney and Chelsea.