Why Manchester United shouldn't sell Wayne Rooney
You wouldn't expect a man nicknamed 'Gunner' to be synonymous with the history of Manchester United, but Jack Rowley is just that.
Over a 17-year career at Old Trafford either side of a break to serve in World War II - including the D-Day landings - the striker wrote his quintessentially English name into United folklore.
He served with diligence, his powerful left foot firing 211 goals for United, including two in the 1948 FA Cup final victory over Blackpool, and was part of Sir Matt Busby's post-war rebuilding of the club.
Placed snugly between Rowley and George Best on the all-time Manchester United top goalscorers list, in fourth place, is Wayne Rooney. From Rowley to Rooney is a separation of just three goals; United's modern-day striking hero should surpass the wartime great before the end of the season. After that, only Denis Law (237) and Sir Bobby Charlton (249) stand between the Scouser once nicknamed the White Pele and Old Trafford immortality.
It is against this background that it seems nigh-on unthinkable that Manchester United would even consider letting Wayne Rooney go. Unusual, too, that Rooney would even be considering leaving - in his testimonial year at that.
At the start of this season, as David Moyes settled into his shiny new hotseat (whatever that is - FFT imagines a nice, cosy La-Z-Boy chair with under-backside heating) part of the Scot's charm offensive, in an ultimately successful battle to keep Rooney motivated and out of Chelsea's grasp, was to invoke the 28-year-old's place in history.
"There is a situation with Wayne where he could go on to emulate some of the greats at United with the goals he can score," Moyes told reporters in August. "The challenge is there. We've said it openly - he's got an opportunity to reach the great heights here. I wouldn't say the heights of immortal people, but those like Sir Bobby Charlton are on as high a pedestal as anybody can get. We've set it down for him - can you put yourself in this position?"
Rooney's response has been exceptional: 16 league starts, 9 goals, 9 assists - more than Ozil, Ramsey, Silva and anyone else in the Premier League, for that matter. Goals and performances such as that in a match-winning turnaround against Hull, in which England's leading light set up two and scored a phenomenal equaliser, show a player approaching the peak of his game. Rooney is - and remains - an outstanding talent.
With Manchester United currently struggling to even make the Europa League, there's a bit of an Arsenal 2008-2012 feel about the prospect of selling one of their best players at a time when they need all the class they can get. To put it bluntly: why the hell would you even entertain selling Rooney?!
Granted, an unhappy player is of lesser value than a joyful, fully motivated one. "I need men who are desperate to play for this club," Alex Ferguson said in 1988 about the departures of Norman Whiteside and Paul McGrath, who had both handed in transfer requests. "Really there is no point having players whose heart is not in playing for you."
This is true to a large degree. But, as this season has shown, Rooney fits into that extremely narrow bracket of players who give 100 per cent even when not fully satisfied off the pitch. He adds a completely new dimension to United's game - energy, penetration, power. He will knuckle down.
From a financial perspective, it could also be argued that losing £25 million or so would actually be worth it to have two more years of Rooney in his prime, during a hugely important rebuilding phase for Moyes and the club.
Rooney has 18 months left to run on his contract and will be pushing 30 by the time it expires. Far from being the most naturally fit of athletes, these could be his peak years before the inevitable post-30 slump. Champions League football alone is worth around £20m per season. Perhaps it's a gamble worth taking.
Finally, selling Rooney now or in the summer would mean having to find a replacement. But which forward is out there that could replace him? Cavani? Falcao? Ibrahimovic? Aguero? Suarez? Fact of the matter is the strikers market is one with very few premium items, and even fewer for sale.
Better the Red Devil you know. The bathwater may be slightly uncomfortable for Manchester United in this situation but the baby must stay.
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