Will Rooney’s departure signal United’s decline?
Wayne Rooney’s demand for a move away from Manchester United has stunned manager Alex Ferguson, especially given the striker’s poor form and support the club have given him through personal problems.
After winning three successive Premier League titles with United and the 2008 Champions League, Rooney enjoyed his best personal season with the club in 2009-10 — when his impressive tally of 34 goals in all competitions was only enough to bring the League Cup to Old Trafford.
The departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid and Carlos Tevez to Manchester City last year had left Rooney with a punishing workload up front, which he carried with some aplomb
But if Rooney leaves, who will take the mantle of being the pack leader in a team devoid of other big names?
Rio Ferdinand’s best days are behind the central defender, Portugal winger Nani has only just started repaying Ferguson’s faith while striker Dimitar Berbatov blows hot and cold.
Also, the debt-ridden club no longer appears to have the financial muscle to sign some of the game’s top performers, who are attracted to the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and United’s arch-rivals City.
Having enjoyed unprecedented success with United in his 24 years in charge, Ferguson will be forced to rebuild a title-winning side from almost scratch if Rooney goes and he will have to do so in the latter stages of his managerial career.
But Paul Ince, Jaap Stam, David Beckham, Roy Keane and Ruud van Nistelrooy were all shown the exit door after clashing with the Scot, who nevertheless always managed to instill renewed vigour in the side he has coached since 1986.
A similar task looks much more difficult this time.