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What does the future hold at Old Trafford?

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney

Whilst Edinson Cavani and Robert Lewandowski have been at the centre of the media’s attention throughout the season and the summer break, with constant speculation over the futures of both strikers, a Premier League side story to add a twist in the tale has been the supposed availability of Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney.

Murmurings of discontent from the England man reportedly started after he was dropped for the Red Devils’ Champions League clash with Real Madrid, and since the tabloids have used any slight notion that Rooney may have become bored of life at Old Trafford to pepper the on-going transfer saga. Whilst some insisted it was merely wild speculation, Sir Alex Ferguson announced on the final day of the season, and indeed his managerial career, that the 27 year old had made a formal transfer request – his second in the space of just three seasons.

But throughout, the red tops have failed to successfully link Rooney to any European or Premier League club – you know the British press are clutching at straws when they begin speculating a surprise move to Barcelona for the Three Lions international, as reported by The Sun yesterday. Similarly, since Ferguson’s departure from the United dug-out, the club have seeked to deny the Scot’s claims regarding Rooney’s intentions to leave Manchester.

It begs the question as to whether Rooney will be moving anywhere this summer. He is expected to have showdown talks with David Moyes when he returns from his summer holidays, but how many options are actually open to the United forward? Can any of them actually benefit his career?

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It has seemed from the offset that the vast majority of Europe remains uninterested in Rooney’s immediate future. As previously stated, the stories conjured up by the tabloids have been tenuous to say the least; almost every manager with a healthy transfer budget was quizzed regarding whether or not they has a vested interest in the England international’s services, but if they were simply resisting the urge to make an enemy out of Sir Alex Ferguson or answering honestly, the answer was always ‘no’.

Until the farcical Barcelona rumour printed this morning, the media’s only foreign option appeared to be PSG, simply due to their vast finance rather than any particular statement or trend to lead them to such a speculative conclusion.

But the lack of interest from Europe’s superpowers is understandable; Rooney’s particular skills set only makes sense within the realms of the Premier League. In La Liga for example, the United man’s  technical ability comes up short in comparison to his Spanish counter-parts, with a few too many simply passes going array, and a few too many opportunities to find the net not hitting the target, whilst his dogged determination, his knack of covering for his right-back when required, or clearing off the line whilst the Red Devils are defending set pieces, would be equally as unappreciated.

Therefore, it seems that if Rooney is still determined to spend the remainder of his career away from Old Trafford, it will have to be with another Premier League club. Whilst Manchester City remains undoubtedly out of the question due to the unbelievable controversy it would cause amongst both sets of fans, the two remaining candidates are Arsenal and Chelsea. Both can afford the 27 year old’s £25million price-tag, and both can assure him with relative confidence regular qualification for Champions League football.

But chances of a move to the Emirates have undoubtedly been scuppered by the Gonzalo Higuain deal.  The Argentine forward will most likely be Arsene Wenger’s only compromising excessive purchase this summer, whilst even if the transfer currently being negotiated fell through, you’d imagine Rooney would not enjoy the reputation of being the Gunners’ sloppy seconds.

Similarly, although next season represents a huge opportunity for the North Londoners to make up serious ground in the title race, following almost a decade of stagnation, joining Arsenal would be a considerable step down for the United striker. The Gunners are amid an eight year trophy drought, and have made it past the quarter finals of the Champions League just twice throughout Wenger’s tenure. If Rooney wishes to end his career in style, in terms of accolades and silverware, the Emirates remains an unlikely option, especially considering he will have to take a sizable pay-cut from his £300k per week wages including bonuses.

Jose Mourinho has perhaps been more open than other managers regarding Rooney’s transfer situation. During the his inaugural press conference upon returning to Stamford Bridge,  the Portuguese told reporters; “I think he [Rooney] is at a fantastic age for a player: maturity, big experience, still young. It’s up to him and what he wants, what makes him happy.” It’s hardly a declaration of interest, and if anything an attempt to ruffle some feathers amongst the new management at Old Trafford, but a move to West London does seem feasible.

The Blues are in need of a regular goal-scorer, with Fernando Torres yet to seriously affect the domestic scoring charts since his £50million move from Liverpool, whilst Romelu Lukaku remains an unknown quantity in a Chelsea jersey, and Demba Ba looks set to become a victim of the change in regime at Stamford Bridge. Jose Mourinho’s personality and credentials appear capable of attracting almost any European standard player, and unlike the Gunners, Chelsea’s chances of domestic and continental silverware have drastically improved since the Portuguese’s arrival.

But would the Blues boss have a particular ‘special’ function for the 27 year old? If his grounds for leaving Manchester behind him lay in his need to play a starring role, he will unlikely be considered with considerably greater importance in the Chelsea roster. The West Londoners already have their fair share of stars – Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, David Luiz and Oscar – and Mourinho would not be hesitant to drop Rooney when required to do so, or play him in midfield, which appears to be another issue for the England forward.

It seems that the avenues open to Rooney are extremely limited. Every potential move represents a step backwards, or at best sideways, but would life be so bad if he remained at Old Trafford? He and David Moyes are said to be on good terms despite their lawsuit court case in 2008, and the change in management gives the Red Devils player a chance to start a-fresh, as the relationship between himself and Ferguson had been fraying at the edges for some time.

Similarly, Rooney may no longer be United’s single star, following the arrival of Robin Van Persie, and further high-quality additions expected to be made this summer, but there is no doubt he is an integral cog in the first team at Old Trafford. His dual role at the tip of midfield whilst also supporting Van Persie in the final third is the most vital link in the United game plan, even if it is a task that often fails to grab the headlines. Rooney’s mixture of power, work-rate and technical ability make him the ideal candidate, and his departure would spell a need for a change in tact ahead of next season, suggesting Moyes will do his best to convince Rooney to stay, considering ‘stability’, ‘identity’ and ‘longevity’ have already become the soundbites of his appointment as Ferguson’s rightful successor.

It makes sense for both player and club to maintain the status quo, rather than search for ideal fantasies of the grass being greener on the other side. Although Rooney has his fair share of critics, including amongst the Old Trafford faithful, a strike rate of 197 goals in 400 competitive appearances for the Red Devils is undeniable, not to mention countless assists on the way, and this season, he has fitted the jigsaw perfectly at the creative hub of United’s midfield.

Similarly, for Rooney, it appears that no club can offer him what he greatly desires – Arsenal have already chosen their main man, whilst at Chelsea, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard will always rival his level of importance in the final third. His only options are to move to clubs of lesser stature, which would undoubtedly be a waste of his talent, considering he’s still putting in consistent, if less glamorous performances, for United.

For all the media hysteria, nonsense speculation and wild guesses regarding the England man’s future, it seems the best option will be to stay put at Old Trafford this summer, and for that matter, the remainder of his footballing career.

Will Wayne Rooney be staying at Old Trafford this summer?

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Article title: What does the future hold at Old Trafford?

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