Manchester United have had an impressive start to the season, beating Bournemouth 3-1, and overcoming Southampton 2-0 to claim all of the points on offer. Zlatan Ibrahimović has scored in both games, potentially having the biggest impact on the team, but club captain Wayne Rooney has been one of Jose Mourinho’s most impressive players also.
Rooney found the back of the net against Bournemouth, heading in a deflected Anthony Martial shot from close range, he also provided the assist for Ibrahimović’s header against The Saints to open the scoring last Friday. Rooney’s impressive start to the season may have been down to the fact that Mourinho reinstated him to the no.10 role in the team, instead of the holding or box to box midfield roles that he fulfilled for both club and country last season.
Rooney is currently 30-years-old, and he could face a fight to solidify his place in the United starting XI, although he has a goal and an assist in his first two games his overall performances haven’t exactly set the world alight either. Once an attacking player reaches the age of 30 they generally begin to slow down, as their footballing abilities also regress. This has led to Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson opening the door for Rooney to make a move to the MLS. He believes that Rooney is still a great footballer, and it would be better for the league if a player of his quality joined the MLS at his current age, rather than when they are 35 years old.
“I would argue he still has some good soccer ahead of him. I think he would be a great signing for MLS – 100 per cent MLS would be attractive for him. Keeping in mind that is a very talented footballer, who has quality soccer ahead of him, you are not talking about a 34 or 35-year-old. I get excited about the impact he would have in the MLS more than a guy who is coming in later in his career.”
The MLS has been gaining more exposure in recent seasons, with Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, and Didier Drogba all joining from Premier League clubs in recent seasons. World Cup winners David Villa and Andrea Pirlo have also joined New York City FC. However, the MLS now faces competition from the Chinese Super League to attract big name players away from their clubs. But Paulson believes that moving to America is the best option for players in the future such as Rooney.
“China is a factor, but also players need to determine where they want to play and what is going to be best for their legacy and lifestyle – where they want to live, I think America compares really favourably – I wouldn’t want to play soccer in Beijing right now. I am not saying that because I don’t like China but the air quality issue is something they have to deal with in a sport which requires fitness.”
Whether Rooney will make the move to the MLS remains to be seen, but it is clear that he has an offer to do so if he wishes. Rooney may not be the player that he once was but he is showing that he can still contribute to the United first team, as he evolves and begins to change his game. Selling Rooney may not have the biggest influence on the team as both Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Juan Mata and Memphis Depay are able to play behind the striker, but losing Rooney would mean that the United dressing room would a wealth of experience and leadership ability, which would not be easy to replace. I think Rooney will make the move to the MLS eventually, but not until he becomes United’s all-time record goal scorer, which he should be able to achieve this season.