Gary Neville issues firm warning to Manchester United over potential Wayne Rooney move to China
Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville has warned the club against letting captain Wayne Rooney leave for China, insisting it would be “strange timing” if manager Jose Mourinho allowed him to leave.
Speculation has mounted of Rooney’s imminent departure to the Chinese Super League after the player’s agent, Paul Stretford, flew to Asia to hold talks with potential bidders.
With 18 months left on his contract, and just three starts to his name in the last two months, the 31-year-old’s future currently hangs in the balance at Old Trafford.
But with the club fighting in four competitions, both at home and abroad, Neville has warned his former club against letting go of another player after selling Morgan Schneiderlin and Memphis Depay in the January transfer window.
"It's strange timing - the [English] transfer window over and yet this debate when there's still two months of the season to go,” he said. “That seems odd. There's still a contribution to be made and many trophies to be played for and won at United.
"I've known Wayne for a long time but I haven't spoken to him; I'm waiting to see what happens but the timing seems odd when United need their squad. Morgan Schneiderlin and Memphis Depay left in January, which means the squad - if they got two or three injuries - would be depleted.
"The fact they're still in the Europa League, playing very important games in the league and the FA Cup and have a cup final, I'd imagine Jose would want his squad in place.”
The ex-defender added that he was unsure if Rooney would be around for much longer but understands any restlessness the player may be experiencing at the club.
"I can also see the other side of it that if Wayne's unhappy and doesn't want to sit on the bench, maybe there would be a move,” he said. “End of the season, I could maybe see something but why now? I'm not sure."
Neville’s comments follow in the wake of Jose Mourinho’s own admission that he could not guarantee the club’s record goalscorer would be at Old Trafford by the end of the season.
Reflecting on the struggles of Premier League stalwarts nearing the end of their careers, Neville expressed his empathy with those players, such as Rooney, looking for the promise of regular first-team football elsewhere.
"I saw at United very good players - Nicky Butt, my brother Phil - who got to the point where they wanted full-time first-team football," Neville said.
"For myself, and others, you could say we were happy, once we got to 33, 34, that we could still make a contribution, even if not every game. It's down to the individual and it's up to Wayne how he sees it.
"You think about what John Terry's doing at Chelsea but Jamie Carragher didn't find not playing easy at Liverpool, Steven Gerrard the same.
"Wayne Rooney is one of those great players who've played in the Premier League for the last 10, 15 years that now has that decision to make. Does he want to make a contribution to United in a different way or does he want to be the first name on the teamsheet and play every week?
"I think it would be ignorant to suggest that going to China is some sort of holiday. I know it will regarded as that and the salary's probably the most attractive thing but in terms of the game, they are serious about it."
Independent News Service