Rooney domino effect creating United quandary

(Getty)

(Getty)

…It was early spring, shortly before that fateful Champions League defeat to Real Madrid, when Alex Ferguson reportedly came to a conclusion. It wasn’t about his future, but rather that of the player once considered the future of Manchester United.

Although 27 and notionally entering the prime of his career, Rooney had gradually come to be seen as sellable. So, according to ESPN sources, Ferguson went to former chief executive David Gill and told him that the club likely had seen the best of Rooney at Old Trafford. It would be a good time to sell and freshen up the attack.

One long-standing and influential United employee put that position into proper context by going even further. “Wayne is here longer than [Eric] Cantona, [Andy] Cole, [Ruud] Van Nistelrooy, Ole [Gunnar Solskjaer]. Everyone has their time.”

Quite simply, it’s all gone a bit stale.

Undeniably, there is an element of fault on both parts. Although Rooney was once seen as the most exciting young forward in the world and even outshone Cristiano Ronaldo at Euro 2004, he has spent all but one season in the past eight years shunted around the pitch and essentially servicing brighter lights like the Portuguese. Part of that, however, is because Rooney never honed his supreme natural talent in the manner players such as Ronaldo did.


Now eight years on at United, all of that has led to a situation that feels much more fundamentally human than anything to do with sport or the specifics of Rooney’s situation. He is an employee who just needs a change of scenery to rediscover his verve. Many outside of football have been there.

It is this that has created such a dilemma for United.

While Moyes is fully confident he can restore Rooney’s energy at Old Trafford, there remains the danger that a player unintentionally going through the motions also can take the vitality out of United’s attack.

The club had been in advanced talks with Paris Saint-Germain in May, but the player’s reluctance to go to France has left Chelsea as the only genuine suitors.

Worse for United, it is a Chelsea now helmed by Jose Mourinho: in other words, exactly the type of manager who could derive the kind of rousing response that Rooney requires.

The Portuguese coach has a track record of doing so and, apart from resistant stars like Iker Casillas, he is famous for fostering deep emotional relationships with his players that result in maximum commitment. Rooney is known to be hugely enthused by that prospect.

In allowing that to happen, United could at once badly weaken themselves while also greatly bolstering one of their title rivals. On the other hand, keeping him could create a situation where United’s attack continues to stagnate while their rivals strive ahead in bold new directions.

This is the quandary.

As such, one thing in all this seems certain: while Moyes’ stance on selling Rooney is not completely hardline, United will not let him go unless they are sure of their own reinforcements.

This domino effect is where it gets interesting. It was also something that Mourinho referenced as he made his latest public play for Rooney on Tuesday.

United’s persistence in pursuing the Catalan is based on positive talks with Fabregas’ camp, but the recent change of manager at Barcelona from Tito Vilanova to Tata Martino — as well as all of the trivial and unfortunately tragic aspects surrounding that — do complicate proceedings. Moyes may have to wait and even then be disappointed. A successful purchase would be a different matter.

Given that Fabregas’ signing would be exciting enough to overshadow a Rooney exit as well as sufficiently recalibrate the front end of United’s team along with what will surely be a more settled Shinji Kagawa, it may be enough to set things in motion. It may lead to Chelsea’s bid then being accepted.

That, however, is still prone to all manner of potential pitfalls and doubts.

None of that for Mourinho. He is as clear-minded as Ferguson was. Rooney is hugely important for the Chelsea system, and that move may be crucial in revitalising Rooney.

It is that very prospect, though, that creates such uncertainty for United.

Source: ESPN

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