Beginning of the end for Rooney


Days look numbered: Rooney may have played his last game for Manchester United

By Saad Noor

Sir Alex Ferguson cut a sorry figure in front of the world’s media at a press conference on Tuesday when he sensationally announced that star striker Wayne Rooney wants to leave Manchester United.

What struck me most about the proceedings at Carrington, along with the intriguing revelations by Sir Alex, was the manager’s demeanour. He has clearly been hurt by the “shocking” decision by Rooney to refuse a new contract at Old Trafford.

Ferguson feels betrayed, and rightly so. The United manager took Rooney under his wing after releasing him from the shackles of David Moyes and Everton back in 2004 and the England man has helped the Red Devils to three successive league titles and a European Cup triumph to boot.

What prompted this decision is still unknown and the only one who can answer the all-important ‘why’ question is the man himself. But will he do the right thing and deliver his side of the story or show greed and a lack of class by selling his story to a Sunday paper. That remains to be seen.

What is clear for all to see though is Rooney’s head has been turned by someone and it’s only a matter of time before it emerges whom he has been liaising with about an unexpected exit from Old Trafford.

Rooney and his people must have an idea of where their next step will be, but where will this bombshell leave United?

Ferguson can count himself lucky that record signing Dimitar Berbatov has found the form he has expected of the Bulgarian when he signed him two years ago. The United boss can also take solace in the promising Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez who burst onto the scene at this summer’s World Cup finals. With these two leading the line, and young Federico Macheda and former England striker Michael Owen also available, it’s fair to say United aren’t in desperate need of a centre-forward. However, this theory was put to the test at the tail end of last season when Rooney was unavailable due to an ankle injury suffered against Bayern Munich. This was a preview for a life without Rooney. When he disappeared, all of the club’s prospects of winning a major prize vanished with him. So it’d also be wrong to suggest he wouldn’t be missed.

The two most feasible destinations for Rooney are to money-bags Manchester City and Mourinho’s Madrid.

If a bidding war was to break out for Rooney’s signature, there will only be one winner. City have deep enough pockets to not only make him the world’s highest-paid player, but a move to Eastlands would also be the easiest move for Rooney from a lifestyle point of view.

Should he decide to cross the road to the City of Manchester stadium, he has been warned. The fracas surrounding Carlos Tevez’s move from United to City in 2009 will look like a trifling tussle compared to the reaction to a deal for Rooney, but if the player can live with the litigious nature of the move, then it’s a goer.

Although Madrid have distanced themselves from a January move for Rooney, it’s clear their manager will be interested if he is still available in the summer. Mourinho teased: “If at the end of the day Man United decide that he is to leave, then give me a call.”

Madrid also have a history of snapping up United’s wantaway stars, as they did with Ruud Van Nistelrooy, David Beckham, Gabriel Heinze and, of course, Cristiano Ronaldo.

This history shows that United aren’t particularly worried about selling big players to Los Blancos as they do not perceive them to be direct competitors unlike the ‘noisy neighbours’ who pose a much bigger threat to Ferguson’s empire.

People might draw comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo’s desire to leave Manchester last year but this is a whole new kettle of kippers. It was widely accepted by United fans that Ronaldo would, someday, leave for pastures new. He also did so in a much more private, dignified manner in which he worked hard for his team taking them to a second European Cup final and a third consecutive title win. Ronaldo also had respect for his manager and never spoke out against Ferguson during his time at United. All boxes that Rooney leaves unchecked.

Perhaps the most astounding side to the Rooney story is the terribly surprising reasoning behind his desire to move. This appears to be mainly financial and orchestrated by his agent Paul Stretford.

Rooney may become the first player to admit that it is all about the money.

While Sir Alex remains “dumbfounded” by events, he has handed Rooney a ‘get-out-of-jail-free card’ by claiming the disillusioned forward is open to reconsider and their offer still stands if he decides to do so. But it will take a lot more to win back the loyal fans of Manchester United whom Rooney had the adoration of since his dream debut six years ago.

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