Sport Soccer

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Only issue is how much United get for fallen star

Wayne Rooney’s latest actions seem certain to hasten his exit from Old Trafford
Wayne Rooney’s latest actions seem certain to hasten his exit from Old Trafford

Chris Bascombe

THE update on the current psychological condition of Wayne Rooney is about getting the England striker back to where he feels most comfortable: in a blue shirt.

It's Chelsea's colours Rooney sees as the ideal fit now, but wrestling himself out of the Manchester United jersey he probably thought would have been of use only for a bonfire by now is proving complicated.

Regardless of your opinion of the complaints issued on Rooney's behalf suggesting he is "angry and confused" at Old Trafford, you have to admire the opportunism and the strategy executed by his advisors.

When a player – or should we say those close to him – publicly attacks his own manager and board, his position is usually deemed untenable.

Unsettled

The problem for David Moyes and Manchester United is that's exactly what the unsettled striker wants. To be shown the door. Put on the transfer list. Told he is no longer worthy of the United badge as the cameras focus on supporters testing the flammability of his No 10 shirt.

United's unwillingness to negotiate with those who want him – or specifically Chelsea who've been the prime pursuers for several weeks – means a public row needed engineering via other means.

High profile transfers of this nature are, ultimately, a blame game and Rooney last night saw his chance to pin his eventual departure at the gates of the new chief executive and manager.

It will only sour his relationship further with the United supporters, of course, but it's the end result of getting Rooney to Stamford Bridge that's at play here.

The remarks issued on his behalf suggest a player who's gone well beyond caring what The Stretford End thinks. United have said privately Rooney would have to make a formal transfer request. If last night wasn't quite it, it won't be such a grand leap if a written one lands on Ed Woodward's desk this afternoon.

Rooney has wilfully interpreted a series of ambiguous quotes as a slight on his contribution to Manchester United's past and how much he will contribute to the future.

What in any other circumstances would have been a slight divot on the Old Trafford turf has been resourcefully transformed into Mount Olympus.

The notion Rooney saw a few remarks in the Sunday papers and suddenly decided he needed clarification on his future is as preposterous as the suggestion he is not fully aware of precisely who will sign him the moment United are willing to negotiate. Jose hasn't been able to stop himself giving the game away.

Rooney's problem since the end of last season has been simple. How do you get out of United into Mourinho's arms if the club genuinely does not want to sell?

If Alex Ferguson was still there it might've been easier. Their relationship was broken, Ferguson putting Rooney into an invidious position with the United faithful by suggesting – erroneously it is now said – the England striker asked for a transfer.

The appointment of Moyes was a hindrance. It gave the impression a fresh start was possible, but the only clarification during the new manager's first press outing was confirmation how little had changed.

When Moyes stated Rooney was not for sale and he wanted him to stay, a statement from the player welcoming the show of support could have brought resolution. Rooney said nothing in the midst of Moyes' conciliatory words.

Rooney is aware that, to leave, he has to formally ask for a transfer. Not only that, he has to make it impossible for Moyes to consider him. The last 24 hours are part of the process of creating an unsustainable relationship.

United's strategy must surely now switch to securing as much as possible for a player who wants out.

They are worried about selling to a rival, but in truth this situation developed because of concerns about Rooney's fitness, how well he looks after himself off the park, and whether he'd ever rediscover the same dynamism at the age of 27 he had when he was 21.

If you're not selecting Rooney for Champions League ties with Real Madrid, it's hard to appear too wounded when he decides he wants to leave.

United may be reluctant traders but if a hefty cheque from Roman Abramovich is banked, not mournful ones.

And, if Moyes does get £25m, he could always cheekily issue a parting shot that's it's not bad business for selling a squad player. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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