The Rooney endgame

Posted by Musa Okwonga

It appears that Wayne Rooney may be on his way after all. According to widespread reports, he is "angry and confused" over David Moyes' weekend comments that he is essential to Manchester United in the event of an injury to Robin van Persie.

Rooney's apparent agitation is great news for Chelsea, who would happily accept a player of his quality; indeed, having missed out on Edinson Cavani (recently acquired by Paris Saint-Germain) they are still in need of a forward of world-class quality.

The latest unconfirmed reports on Wednesday suggest the Blues have already made a player-plus-cash bid for Rooney - £10 million plus the pick of Juan Mata or David Luiz, according to the Daily Mail - which was rejected by Manchester United.

(Update: Chelsea have since confirmed they made a bid for Rooney, but denied reports that the offer was £10 million plus Mata or Luiz.)

Clearly, it is not ideal for Manchester United to be selling a player as good as Rooney to one of their closest rivals, particularly since a freshly motivated forward in a World Cup year is the last person you would want boosting your opponent's goal difference. But no matter how successful Rooney proves in another shirt, it must be remembered that a transfer of this nature was almost inevitable.

After all, the last time Rooney was seemingly due to leave Old Trafford, he was set to go to Eastlands - a scenario which, like the present one, he created by handing in a transfer request. No matter how intimidating the challenge Jose Mourinho is preparing now, it is mild compared to what Manchester United would have faced if they had lost Rooney to Manchester City a few years ago.

Back then, the Red Devils had no other forward as good as Rooney, and they had a foe whose form was assuming a dangerous momentum. Now, though, they have a squad whose members have all enjoyed at least one successful championship campaign, an experience that will prove invaluable come the tougher moments of the upcoming season.

The most damning statement that Rooney was no longer indispensable at Old Trafford came not from Moyes, whose thoughts were ultimately a blunt statement of fact ("Overall, my thought on Wayne is, if for any reasons we had an injury to Robin van Persie, we'll need him ... Manchester United isn't about Wayne Rooney. Manchester United is about the team - the club"), but from Ed Woodward, the executive vice president, who said that the club "would not be afraid to let a contract run down."

With two years remaining on Rooney's current deal, the perceived wisdom was that he would be offered an extension in order to remain at Old Trafford, but Woodward's comments suggest no new offer will be forthcoming this season and United are unlikely to want to let a valuable asset to go for free.

The endgame concerning Rooney was going to happen sooner or later. It may as well happen now.

If it does happen now, thoughts must turn to a replacement. Manchester United might look for a like-for-like change, but there aren't many footballers like Rooney out there. A better option might be to go for a forward who will happily play all across the front line.

It's an unlikely transfer, but a player like Alexis Sanchez of Barcelona would be an excellent acquisition, giving the team a greater fluidity but not offering an immediate and direct threat to either Shinji Kagawa or van Persie in their primary roles as, respectively, playmaker and out-and-out striker.

Players of his skill set are rare, but it's in this sort of direction that the club could usefully look.

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