Wayne Rooney speaks out, but that's no longer Man United's problem

Wayne Rooney speaks out, but that's no longer Man United's problem
From ESPN - July 16, 2017

Romelu Lukaku played in a Manchester United shirt for the first time on Saturday evening when his new club beat LA Galaxy 5-2 in a preseason friendly.

In Lukaku, United have a striker who has averaged more than 20 goals a season over the past three campaigns. Like Wayne Rooney before him, he has outgrown Everton and made a move to a team that has a better chance of offering him silverware.

After Lukaku followed Rooney's footsteps from Merseyside to Manchester, the former United captain was asked whether he has any advice for United's new No. 9.

"There are standards that you have to keep when you are at Manchester United," he said. "Over the last few years, it was down to me and Michael Carrick to keep the new players maintaining those standards. That became more difficult over the last few years, with some of the players who joined the club. There are traditions at United that have to be maintained. It's become harder, but that's not my problem anymore. I am just ecstatic to be back at Everton."

For Rooney to talk in such a way is quite rich, given his own decline. At his best, he was an incredible footballer and United's most important player. His determination and passion dragged the team through games and even seasons. He would cover every blade of grass, throw himself into any challenge, while also being able to create and score crucial goals.

But as far back as 2012-13, Sir Alex Ferguson's final season, Rooney found himself on the bench more often. His decline had begun, and like Ferguson had been able to do so many times before, he identified it early and was ready to let him leave. The appointment of David Moyes, who oversaw the signing of a massive contract instead of allowing the striker to move on, arguably extended Rooney's Old Trafford stay for longer than it should have gone.

It was almost uncomfortable watching Rooney at times last season, as he was outrun by slow defenders, saw the ball clumsily bouncing off his shins too often, and was unable to convert even the simplest of chances.

Jose Mourinho played the situation perfectly. Instead of making the bold move of dropping Rooney straight away, he played Rooney every week, allowing everyone to see how far off the pace he was. That meant there were no complaints when the decision was eventually made to relegate him from the starting lineup.

Rooney did not kick up a fuss, for which he has received credit, but had to evaluate his future and had plenty of thinking time when warming the bench. Last summer, Rooney had claimed that he wanted to extend his contract and retire at United. Surplus to requirements, he had to find somewhere else prepared to have him.


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