Crafting a Win-Win Solution for Wayne Rooney and Manchester United
Not all of Sir Alex Ferguson’s parting gifts were the sort David Moyes wanted.
While Ferguson left his successor with a strong squad, vigorous academy and a winning mentality that comes with 13 championships during the Premier League era, he also gifted his fellow Scot a very disgruntled Wayne Rooney, whom he claimed had requested a transfer late in the season.
The authenticity of the request has never been substantiated. But with less than two weeks until the summer transfer window closes, Moyes finds himself in the uncomfortable position of trying to convince a £250,000-per-week attacker to remain at a club that cannot promise him starts.
On Saturday, ahead of United’s Premier League opener away to Swansea, Rooney cut a miserable figure as he entered Liberty Stadium. While he was given respectful applause by the club’s traveling fans as he prepared to replace Ryan Giggs just after the hour mark, at no time did he resemble a player enjoying his football.
And so, the question: Can Rooney, while Ferguson remains at Old Trafford as a director, ever again represent United with the energy, ability and general goodwill from the stands he has enjoyed for much of his tenure at the club?
United are obviously hoping the answer is “yes.”
Awash in money from new sponsorship deals (the Chevrolet contract in particular), United have absolutely no need to sell the 27-year-old from a purely financial perspective. Even if a preposterously inflated offer were to come in for Rooney, Moyes would be under little pressure from the club’s owners to complete a transfer.
No doubt the manager would prefer to have a happy, in-form Rooney available for selection. But selling him at the outset of the season—especially in the absence of a major acquisition—would make little sense, less so given the chance that the England forward would suddenly hit a purple patch upon arrival at a serious opponent.
In their desire to keep him at the club, United—from Moyes down to the players—seem to be singing from the same songbook.
“[Rooney] is a fantastic player and he did well when he came on,” remarked defender Phil Jones following the 4-1 win in Wales, per Ian Ladyman of the Daily Mail. “The reception was great when he came on...The manager and the lads are pleased.”
Michael Carrick echoed his teammate’s sentiments, telling reporters in a post-match scrum that Rooney had “looked good.”
United, given their finances and squad depth, can afford to wait Rooney out—or at least try to. The prospect of a new contract in the summer could suddenly serve as a motivator, and given his showing at Swansea, he may not be that far from the starting 11, anyway.
Not only did Rooney set up the second-half goals from Danny Welbeck and Robin van Persie, but he also touched the ball 23 times in less than half an hour and completed 88 percent of his passes—many of them quick, direct and on the counter-attack. (Statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com.)
Giggs, who came off for Rooney, touched the ball only 39 times in 62 minutes while completing just 66 percent of his passes.
In all the speculation about Rooney, seems to have been forgotten what a wonderful player he can be. Cameo at Swansea reminded a few of that— Oliver Holt (@OllieHolt22) August 18, 2013
It was, in a brief cameo appearance, a reminder of what Rooney is capable of, even with his head somewhere else. And unless he tables a formal transfer request (which United could still reject), he won’t be leaving Old Trafford anytime soon.
For Moyes and United, the wait-and-see approach would seem advisable at this point, especially given Rooney’s bizarre history with transfer sagas. It was less than three years ago, after all, that he asked to leave the club before reversing his decision just days later.
A similar change of heart is not out of the realm of possibility this time around. Once the transfer window slams shut, the rumour mill will go quiet for a few months—something that will only be helpful in this instance.
A win-win scenario would see Rooney remain and thrive at United, adding to his medal collection and reestablishing himself as one of the elite playmaking forwards in world football.
He has a better chance of doing that at Old Trafford than anywhere else, which is why United will likely try to wait out his latest in a long line of bad moods.
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