The Wayne Rooney transfer saga rumbles on, and a resolution to the Manchester United strikers future at Old Trafford is no clearer than it was at the beginning of the summer, when Sir Alex Ferguson stunned United fans by declaring that Rooney had requested a move away from the Premier League champions.
Following Ferguson’s announcement, there was all sorts of speculation regarding where Rooney might end up with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Monaco and PSG all mooted as possible destinations; as well as Premier League clubs Arsenal and Chelsea. Most of these speculations have since dried up, but one rumour has held firm all summer: Wayne Rooney to Chelsea.
Chelsea’s perceived interest in Rooney became concrete interest with a bid of £25m two weeks ago – a bid that was immediately rebuffed by the Red Devils. Chelsea returned last week with a £30m bid for the player; that bid also being rejected out of hand. Whether Chelsea will return with another bid still remains to be seen, but the fact that United are refusing to negotiate is very interesting indeed.
During David Moyes’ first press conference as Manchester United manager, the Scot made it clear that he had absolutely no plans to sell Wayne Rooney. Moyes made all the right noises – referring to Rooney as a quality player and a valuable asset to United. At that point, many of us thought the idea of Rooney going was dead and buried; but this was before a subsequent press conference in which Moyes appeared to suggest that he was only interested in retaining Rooney as backup to their No.1 striker Robin van Persie. Moyes intimated that the reason why Rooney would not be sold was that they would need the flexible talents of the Croxteth-born England striker if anything happened to van Persie. This may have been a throwaway remark; but if so, it was an extremely unwise one.
Reading between the lines, Moyes’ comments indicated that Rooney was not a first-choice player. With van Persie preferred up front, and Shinji Kagawa more than capable of playing in ‘the hole’ behind the striker, it very much looked like Moyes was preparing to play Rooney in his less-favoured midfield position – or indeed, leave the player on the bench. Understandably, Moyes’ comments did little to dispel the rumours circulating Old Trafford concerning Rooney’s desire to leave.
So the question is: if Moyes sees Rooney as a second-choice player, and is not contemplating playing Rooney in his favoured position, then why will he not acquiesce to Rooney’s request to leave? Rooney is rumoured to be on wages of £250,000 a week, and it seems frankly bizarre that United are prepared to keep paying Rooney that sort of salary if they aren’t going to utilise him as effectively as possible. Furthermore, Rooney only has two years left on his contract, meaning that his value is diminishing every day as he comes closer to the end of his contract. It would usually be around this time that a club would begin negotiating a new contract with a player, and yet it seems that United have no plans to extend Rooney’s deal. Just what is going on at Old Trafford?
The simple answer seems to be that Manchester United are no longer interested in Wayne Rooney as a player but are also scared of the possible repercussions of selling Rooney to one of their closest rivals. As I stated earlier in the article, interest in Rooney from any club apart from Chelsea seems to have evaporated, meaning that if Rooney leaves Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge is where he is most likely to end up. United now find themselves in a difficult situation. One of their most valuable assets (in financial terms) is losing value every day, and if they don’t sell him this summer, they are likely to receive a great deal less for him in January or Summer 2014; or worst case scenario, lose him for nothing in the summer of 2015 when his contract runs out. If they kept Rooney when all he wants to do is leave, they would also be unlikely to receive a particularly high level of performance from him. From this perspective, selling Wayne Rooney is a must. However, with Chelsea the only interested party, they also face the prospect of strengthening one of their closest Premier League rivals if they were to sell them Rooney.
As I write, Chelsea have made two substantial bids for the wantaway striker, and if Chelsea’s past dealings in the transfer market are anything to go by, they’ve only just begun. Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has made it clear that Rooney is the one player that he wants, and given the financial muscle he has at his disposal, it seems likely that Chelsea will up their bid until they’ve got their man. As the bid continues to go up, holding onto Rooney when they don’t even want him will seem more and more absurd.
Rooney will also feel that staying at United when he is no longer than main-man there will be detrimental to his prospects of playing a starring role for England in next summer’s World Cup in Brazil. Indeed, this was the tack that Mourinho used when he subtly insinuated that Rooney should be allowed to leave if he is no longer first-choice at United. Rooney will feel confident of securing a starting spot at Chelsea, with Fernando Torres back to a decent level of form, but still nowhere near the level he was at during his days at Anfield. Chelsea’s game would suit Rooney, who would be likely to be provided with a great deal of chances by the highly productive and dangerous attacking trio of Mata, Oscar and Hazard; not to mention the ability of England stalwart Frank Lampard to play off a frontman.
So what will David Moyes do? In an ideal world, Moyes would like to keep hold of Rooney for at least another year, with Rooney playing a bit-part role, in the hope that a foreign club may become interested enough to part with a decent amount of cash for the player. However, with Mourinho intent on securing Rooney’s signature, will United really be able to turn down £35m+ for the frontman? Sadly for Moyes, his first major decision may well prove to be his most important one, and getting it right could be the difference between success and failure. If Moyes keeps Rooney at Old Trafford and puts in insipid and languid performances for United, Moyes will cop the flak; but likewise, if Rooney is allowed to leave and scores a bagful of goals for Chelsea en route to a Premier League win, Moyes will be seen as the man culpable. It’s a catch 22 decision for the Scot, who could be damned if he sells Rooney and damned if he doesn’t. Best of luck David. You’ll need it.