Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney has dismissed reports that he is set to leave Old Trafford and has instead insisted that he wants to remain a part of Jose Mourinho’s team – at least until the summer.
The 31-year-old had been linked with a move to the Far East with a number of Chinese Superclubs interested in securing his signature before their transfer window closes later this month. However, Rooney released a statement on Thursday in which he stated his desire to remain at Old Trafford and said that he hoped to “play a full part” as United continue to battle for silverware on four fronts this season.
However, in reality, Rooney’s statement simply confirms that he will remain in Manchester until the summer and does little to address the uncertainty surrounding his long-term future. It is little surprise that the striker is unwilling to exit the club at this late stage of the season, especially when he could still end the campaign with three winners medals added to his already illustrious list of achievements.
Yet Mourinho has continued to overlook the England captain in his team selections this season and if the 31-year-old wants to represent his country at the 2018 World Cup in Russia then he has no other option but to leave Old Trafford at the end of the season.
Country before club?
Wayne Rooney has made it clear that he wants to lead England to the 2018 World Cup before retiring from international football when the tournament concludes. However, Gareth Southgate will be struggling to justify the inclusion of the 31-year-old based on current form and performances at club level.
Jose Mourinho has used Rooney sparingly throughout the season and has continuously opted to include other forward players in his starting line-up. The striker may be Manchester United’s all-time record goal scorer but he has found the net just five times this campaign and has started just three games since early December. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Juan Mata and, arguably, Marcus Rashford are all blocking his path to a regular berth in the first team and game time has been severely limited since the turn of the year.
In short, if Rooney is determined to play in Russia in just over one year’s time then he will need to depart Old Trafford for pastures new. He needs game time – but in a European league.
Far East should be avoided
The Chinese Super League has already succeeded in tempting a number of high profile European players to the Far East as the country throws around extortionate amounts of money in an attempt to develop their domestic competitions. However, if Wayne Rooney is serious about prolonging his international career then he should avoid the Far East at all costs.
By moving to China the 31-year-old would be announcing his own exclusion from the England team, much in the same way that David Beckham did when he moved to LA Galaxy in 2007.
Whilst the overall standard of Major League Soccer and the Chinese Super League is improving it is still a considerable distance behind the quality of Europe’s major domestic leagues. Gareth Southgate would surely find it impossible to select Rooney if the striker is jogging around in a second-rate competition across the other side of the globe. Football in the Far East would not provide Rooney with an accurate replication of European football and it certainly would not be suitable preparation for playing in the World Cup.
Therefore the financial riches of the Far East must be avoided.
It would seem unlikely that any of the leading clubs in England would have a serious interest in signing Wayne Rooney should the player indicate that he was prepared to leave Old Trafford. Manchester City and Liverpool would both be dubious moves due to local rivalry and history whilst it is difficult to see the striker holding down a regular place in the starting line-up at Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur or Arsenal. A return to Everton would have a sentimental attraction although Toffee supporters have been raucous is their criticism since his departure in 2004.
So where next for England and Manchester United’s all-time leading goal scorer?
A move to the continent could provide the perfect solution. David Beckham demonstrated that an Englishman can make a positive impact in the Italian, Spanish and French top-flight divisions and Rooney could well benefit from an experience away from the Premier League.
A fresh start in a new country could well re-energise and re-enthuse the 31-year-old who has increasingly looked out of place in the high-tempo hustle-and-bustle of English football. The slower pace of the game in Italy or Spain would allow him greater freedom to express himself whilst the different tactical concepts, opposition and stadia would provide a new challenge for the man who has already achieved everything in English football. The language barrier would be an initial issue but Rooney’s quality and intelligence on the pitch would still shine through.
Travelling north of the boarder and sampling the cuisine of Scottish football would be an option, especially given the financial clout and dominance of Glasgow Celtic, but there would be little to entice Rooney to make the jump. The striker’s wage demands would also be a significant stumbling block, as it would be for any non-Champions League teams across Europe’s leading divisions.
Expect an announcement in the summer
It is clear that Wayne Rooney will need to depart Old Trafford if he has a genuine intention to play in the 2018 World Cup. The 31-year-old is simply not being handed enough game time at Manchester United and it would be difficult for Gareth Southgate to justify the striker’s inclusion for the tournament if he was stranded amongst the substitutes for the forthcoming eighteen months.
A move is needed, but the final destination is uncertain.
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