As Jose Mourinho so rightly predicted, the world did stop to watch as Real Madrid cruelly dumped Manchester United out of the Champions League on 5 March, at the theatre of dreams. The one individual though who would not have expected to be watching was the once untouchable Manchester United and England striker Wayne Rooney.
I don't think even think the two-time European cup winner Mourinho would have predicted that Rooney would only be introduced as a 73rd minute substitute on such a big occasion. Rooney has been an ever-present in the United team since his arrival from his boyhood club Everton in 2004.
For many years now Rooney has been singled out as England's stand-out performer, the only player to be compared to the likes of current day football gods such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Although his latest snub has led to an onslaught of speculation about whether the 27-year-old will ever reach the heights that his unquestionable ability should take him.
The only time Rooney has consistently been at the top of his game for United was the 2009/2010 campaign, in which he managed 31 goals and also scooped up the PFA player of the year award. This campaign coincidently was the first season after United lost the services of the outstanding world-beater Cristiano Ronaldo. While Ronaldo was at the club Rooney was largely overshadowed and in big games, such as the 2009 Champions League final, he was often occupied as a winger so Ronaldo could occupy a central role. Therefore once Ronaldo departed to Madrid it seemed that Rooney was more than capable of being United's key man, and for that season, it looked like Rooney was fulfilling his enormous potential.
One starring campaign led Rooney to suggest that his personal aspirations were not met by the club and indicated that he wanted a move out of Old Trafford. In order to halt any potential move to rivals City, Rooney was quickly offered an astronomical new contract to keep him at the club which in hindsight his performances have not justified.
The fact that Rooney was rewarded with a new contract showed United's commitment, although he has struggled to repay the enormous faith shown in him. You can say that the signing of Robin Van Persie may have affected him as he is again not the vocal point of United's attack, although Manchester United are a massive club who will always look to strengthen their side with the world's best players.
It seems Rooney has become too comfortable, he has lost some bite and struggles to deliver in big games. I totally disagree with the idea of him playing a deeper midfield role; age-wise he should be in his prime and should be fighting to be the clubs main striker. As he gets older and he loses a yard is when he should be looking to have a more central role and affect games from deeper positions, although that time should be years away.
Sir Alex Ferguson has always stated that no player is bigger than the club and this statement has been proven by the abrupt departures of big names like Jaap Stam, Roy Keane and David Beckham. After Rooney's recent snub, it wouldn't be a massive surprise if he were to heading for the exit, especially with his contract two years from expiry. For a player who not so long ago could have been the spearhead of attack for any team in Europe, it seems his next destination could be limited if the club do decide to sell.
Like we have seen in the past, it would be incredibly unlikely that Ferguson would be willing to sell Rooney to any of his rivals, Gabriel Heinze comes to mind. Barcelona and Real Madrid both have an abundant of talent and it seems unlikely that any German or Italian teams would break their wage structures to sign the England international. That would leave a move to mega-rich PSG the most likely option if the rumours of a departure did materialise into fact.
Rooney's career really is in his own hands, if he takes his recent fall from grace as motivation to win over the hearts of the manager and the fans then he can go down as being an all-time great at the club he loves. Anything other than this could result in Rooney watching united play a lot more than he would like to.
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