Back in the summer, Wayne Rooney looked to be on his way out of Old Trafford with Sir Alex Ferguson heading into retirement announcing that the Englishman had requested a transfer.
David Moyes poured a sizeable amount of time and energy into retaining Rooney over the summer, a decision that left some fans perplexed given the forward's sluggish form and bloated appearance in the recent year.
Yet as another international break offers the Premier League time and space to reflect on the season so far, it is United's striker-cum-midfielder who is currently outshining the player most supporters hailed as one of the greatest transfer coups of all time in Arsenal's Mesut Ozil.
According to WhoScored.com, the German playmaker has racked up four assists and two goals in 15 games. By contrast, Rooney is ahead with seven goals and seven assists in 14 games.
No wonder United are reportedly offering him a new four-year contract thought to be worth £250,000 per week, per James Dickenson for The Daily Express.
Another four years of Rooney may be too much for those still sore over his past transgressions and disloyalty, but it will be a major act of reconciliation between a player and a club who seemed to be locked in a Cold War-era shadow conflict back in August.
Since then he has been something of a talisman during the injury absence of Robin van Persie, with whom he has also begun to build the partnership many analysts predicted would form following the Dutchman's arrival last year.
Yet Rooney still remains frustrating at times, and even against Arsenal, besides the corner delivery that set up van Persie for the winning goal, the forward's first touch looked off, stagnating transitions and causing United's play to stutter and break up rather than flow.
There remains a risk that his current condition is a temporary burst to attract suitors or gain a new deal rather than a signal that his best form has returned for good.
Some still want to see United move on from the player whose work-rate, if not his technique, has so often been a catalyst to help those around him raise their game.
Critics cite the lack of games afforded to Shinji Kagawa in the hole as a reason to drop or sell Rooney, while the need to keep Javier Hernandez happy with regular first team football has lead to suggestions the England international should give way.
It's impossible to dismiss the impact he has had this season however, and with so much transition swirling around Old Trafford following the departure of Sir Alex, David Gill, Mike Phelan, Rene Meulensteen and other key figures, maintaining some form of continuity may help Moyes settle.
Another possibility for the conspiracy theorists is that a new deal pumps up the fee United can demand off other clubs for Rooney's services in order to bankroll a major redevelopment of the squad, much like the renovation job undertaken by Tottenham Hotspur, paid for by Gareth Bale's sale.
Players such as Arturo Vidal, Cesc Fabregas, Mats Hummels and other world stars will not come cheap should Moyes decide he needs to bring in proven class to replace or back up Michael Carrick, Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs.
Whether a new deal for Rooney reinforces his status as a United icon, adds value to a potential sale or gives the club security over their prized asset, it's a landmark that must be passed in order to give Moyes the power and agency to steady the ship and look to the future.
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