It appears almost certain at this point that Wayne Rooney will not be a Manchester United player by the end of the summer. The England international has burned too many bridges with the fans, Sir Alex Ferguson and apparently David Moyes, whilst the Premier League champions themselves have done worryingly little to appease Rooney, or quash his concerns of playing second fiddle to Robin Van Persie in the preluding campaign to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The only viable suitors on the horizon are Chelsea, capable of coughing up the cash in terms of transfer fees and wage demands, and also the only English club that can offer Rooney a similar level of success to what he’s become accustomed to at Old Trafford, barring a shock move to Manchester City. Jose Mourinho has made no qualms about his pursuit of the striker, admitting openly and honestly during a press conference on the Blues’ pre-season tour that Chelsea’s transfer policy this summer can be described in a nutshell as “Rooney or bust”.
So the Red Devils are in the market to sell as long as the price is right, despite David Moyes insisting otherwise at every opportunity, and Jose Mourinho is keen to buy, but could the potential Rooney deal leave the new United boss blue in the face?
The fall-out from Rooney’s transfer will affect David Moyes’ reputation for better or worse, yet there is little doubt that the current summer scenario is straight out of Sir Alex Ferguson’s managerial hand-book. The Premier League champions have a knack of selling their best players in their prime, with a host of examples throughout Ferguson’s long reign at Old Trafford.
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Jaap Stam was sold to Lazio in 2001, despite being regarded as one of the best central defenders in Europe at the time, David Beckham was allowed to leave for Real Madrid in 2003, aged just 28 and with another ten years of his career yet to go, Carlos Tevez was surrendered to Manchester City in 2009, regardless of the fact he’d played in and won a Champions League final for the Red Devils a year previous, and went on to net 73 times in 138 appearances for the noisy neighbours, before moving to Juventus this summer. Cristiano Ronaldo was sold on for immense profit in 2009, whilst Ruud Van Nistelrooy was surprisingly usurped from the first team in 2006, despite netting 21 goals in 35 appearances during his final season in Manchester.
With the exception of Ronaldo, none were sold on the basis that offers received from potential suitors were too good to turn down. Rather, the practice of deconstructing the United first team and shifting the club’s best players is part of what Steve McLaren describes as Ferguson’s ‘helicopter view’ of the Red Devils, noticing Premier League trends before they happen, and making sure no individual becomes too well acquainted with their surroundings at Carrington. The old adage that no player becomes bigger than the club itself is constantly maintained, whilst room is made for the next generation of stars to burst through, and it’s hard to argue against a method of longevity that has brought United unprecedented success over the last twenty years.
The hole Rooney leaves behind will most likely be filled by Shinji Kagawa. The 24 year old is by no means a Rooney replica, and regular inclusion in the first team in a more central role than last season will require some tactical modification on David Moyes’ part, but with few viable alternatives on the horizon, and the likes of Thiago Alcantara, Mario Gotze and Christian Eriksen already passing United by this summer, it appears the mantle will be passed to Kagawa, with full confidence from the Red Devils management.
The Japan international struggled to adapt at times last term, but finished up with six goals and three assists from 20 domestic appearances, despite spending two months out with a knee injury picked up in a Champions League tie against Braga, and also confronting the language barrier. At former club Borussia Dortmund, Kagawa was utilised in a supporting role to Robert Lewandowski and recorded 21 goals in 48 domestic appearances in the space of two years, picking up two Bundesliga titles along the way. The Red Devils invested £17million in the attacking midfielder last summer, and to suggest Kagawa was touted as Rooney’s successor from the point of his signing would hardly be a wild theory.
The process has worked time and time again for the 13-time Premier League champions, but I have my doubts regarding the current situation with Wayne Rooney. The England man finished last campaign with 10 goals and 12 assists in 27 domestic appearances, fielded only twice in his preferred capacity as an out-and-out striker. At the same time, Rooney’s United record stands at 197 goals in 400 appearances, and the forward has claimed five Premier League titles, two League Cups and a Champions League title during his nine years at Old Trafford.
It seems the 27 year old’s main crime is a distain to playing second-fiddle to Robin Van Persie, whilst others have complained over Rooney’s apparent lack of fitness, despite playing in 37 fixtures last season, and averaging over forty appearances per term throughout his United career. On a business front, this summer represents the best opportunity to sell the striker, a campaign before his contract enters its final year and his value begins to plummet as a result.
But making selection and transfer policy based upon business decisions is dangerous territory, and it appears from the outside at least that the Red Devils are essentially surrendering one of the English top flight’s most proven goal-scorers and creators in the final third to a divisional rival who present the biggest threat to United’s title defence next season, simply for the sake of it. Instead, the club will be reliant upon Robin Van Persie for goals, a striker who was 30 less career goals than Rooney, 19 less Premier League goals than Rooney, and in two weeks time, will be three years older than Rooney.
At the same time, the Red Devils are losing the vital element to their strikeforce. Currently, they have the best attack in the Premier League, with Van Persie, Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck providing great contrast and diversity in style, physicality, strengths and weakness, whilst also representing variation in age and proven track record. But United will suddenly find themselves eclipsed in attack should Rooney jump ship to Stamford Bridge and join up with Fernando Torres, Demba Ba and Romelu Lukaku, whilst recent acquisitions at City have added Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic alongside Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero.
Options up-front was undoubtedly United’s biggest strength amid their successful 2012/2013 campaign, but a large chunk of their unrivalled depth laid in Rooney’s versatility. Van Persie and Hernandez are both capable of twenty goals a-piece, and the Mexican international deserves a fairer share of game time, but Danny Welbeck’s inability to find the net is well-known, whilst none on the Red Devils roster, excluding Kagawa, appear capable of taking over the Rooney’s dual role at the tip of United’s midfield.
The fact is, all that Manchester United are gaining from the Rooney deal is a sum between £25million and £35million, money which the club simply doesn’t need, and considering the England international’s availability is well known, I’d predict that his price tag will be closer to the former figure rather than the latter.
Without a viable replacement on the horizon, with every established European attacking midfielder and striker already accounted for this summer barring a few exceptions, Rooney’s departure looks set to leave integral holes in the United squad, whilst his unique characteristics, with creativity and composure in the final third, the ability to score from a variety of ranges and chances, a raw energy, robustness and hard-working attitude, and one of the most proven track-records in terms of end product in the top flight, will be willing handed to United’s biggest foes in Chelsea and Jose Mourinho.
The Red Devils have little to gain and a lot to lose from selling a player that is currently the heart-beat of the first team, and David Moyes is taking a huge risk in axeing one of his most established players simply for the sake of change. Should Rooney’s form pick up upon his arrival in West London, the critics will come calling, but even before the incoming Premier League season gets underway, United will have to source a new recruit of similar quality and reputation. At the moment that man appears to be Cesc Fabregas, but should the Spaniard wish to stay put, there aren’t too many transfer alternatives for David Moyes that can claim to be a similar caliber to the England international. Rooney’s transfer has huge scope to backfire, and leave the new Red Devils boss blue in the face amid his first season in charge at Old Trafford.
Do United stand little to gain from selling Wayne Rooney?
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