Wayne Rooney, today, has stated his desire to retire at Manchester United. The English forward hopes to spend the rest of his footballing career at Old Trafford, hopefully eventually extending his contract that expires in 2019. Since his arrival in 2004, Rooney has made 601 first team appearances, and though there have been bumps along the way, it has been a great 12 years for Rooney, who has ultimately achieved greatness at the club.
“I’ve said to United I want to stay there, finish my career there. So it’s a case of sitting down with United when the time’s right. I’ve still got three years left. When I speak to them, I’ll have a better idea. I hopefully want to finish my career at United.”
This seems a little bit strange from Rooney, for more than a few reasons. Firstly, Rooney stated his intention to leave the club on multiple occasions in the past 12 years, so for him to now state that he wants to spend the rest of his career at United is bizarre. With a contract extension, which he spoke of, he will be at the club for at least half a decade more, which seems abnormal for a player who, as noted by Sir Alex Ferguson, wanted to leave the club without much else to say.
The second reason for which it is so strange is because Rooney has already clearly declined immensely as a footballer. For him to put a public burden on the club to keep his contract running is an insensitive move, especially considering how grand his wages are and the fact he is arguably keeping more deserving candidates out of the first team as it is. Rooney is arguably a cut below other attacking midfielders at the club, namely Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who has been sitting on the sidelines for some time now.
This wouldn’t be a problem if Rooney didn’t need to start every game. Louis van Gaal, United’s former manager, used Rooney’s captaincy as an excuse to start him in every single match¸ until his football was somehow more burned out than it already is. He wouldn’t even substitute Rooney. Mourinho, however, cannot use the same excuse- he benched John Terry, a more influential figure at Chelsea than Rooney at United, in his most recent spell at Stamford Bridge.
It seems Mourinho is somewhat avoiding the question- when asked in his opening presser, he spoke of Rooney’s position in the context of his role and not his actual playing time. Whether it is for commercial reasons or because of a clause in his contract, Rooney needs to start almost, if not every, game.
Rooney would be an asset to the side if he played far less than he does, coming into the team when he is needed and providing the leadership he undoubtedly adds to United. Playing him more sporadically would also likely improve his football, which needs to be preserved because there doesn’t seem to be much of it left. However, it seems this is not an option, and therefore, it makes the most sense to me that United let him go. That being said, he still remains a hard-working figure who will play anywhere for the club, even if it is in central defence. He’s played in defensive midfield, central midfield and attacking midfield for van Gaal, out wide for England and Mourinho and up top on many occasions throughout his career, and deserves praise for everything he’s done.