You feel it in the air when you watch Manchester United matches. Despite the walk-over title run, things are far from perfect in Sir Alex’s kingdom, who is still trying to find his way to make his team as good as those foreigners who keep beating him on the way to the Champions League. It sounder ridiculous before, but maybe selling Wayne Rooney is the best way to move forward.
Sometimes, footballers peak at 27, or even earlier. Ronaldinho was at his best between 24-26, being the best in the world for a couple of years before his joie de vie and injuries caught up with him, ending his magical run with Barcelona, leading to a less than wondrous time with AC Milan before returning to the Brazilian league, which suits him much better once he was no longer that special to watch on a European pitch.
Rooney might have peaked even sooner, but it’s hard to say. It’s hard to think of a consistent run at a certain position for the former Everton wonderkid, who needed Cristiano Ronaldo to leave in order to show just how gifted of a goalscorer he is, but his injuries, trouble to stay in shape and problems with Alex Ferguson have always been a stumbling block from achieving true greatness for Rooney.
And now, he seems even more lost than ever on the pitch. Ferguson is using him more and more as a central midfielder, a role he does well and attests to his work rate and versatility, doing whatever the manager asks of him on the pitch – be it playing behind strikers, where he is usually at his best; an attacking or more defensive (tactical) winger or simply play alongside Michael Carrick or Ryan Giggs in the middle of the field. Rooney might not look like it, but he’s extremely fit on the football pitch, with the ability to gallop miles and run non-stop for 90 minutes.
But as a midfielder, he’s not that special. What makes things worse? It seems that for some reason, he’s lost his quickness of reaction to tacklers and situations. Maybe it’s a depression thing, seeing Robin van Persie taking over the striker role, while Shinji Kagawa took his spot as the attacking midfielder who plays in the hole. Rooney might do his job well, but he’s not too happy about it.
Will he go or won’t he? Manchester United might not demand that much money over Rooney, or at least less than what some initially believed they would. Having his salary taken off the books is not too bad in itself. The problem is finding someone willing to take it on. Ferguson keeps saying Rooney will be with the team next season, but that doesn’t really mean anything. The question probably should be directed at Rooney, who has had his foot out the door once or twice at the club. How badly does he want to stay?