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Why Rooney had to leave Old Trafford

Added by Philip Meese on 09 Jul 2017 20:09

Wayne Rooney has sacrificed his club career in order to save his international one, but leaves Old Trafford as a United legend.

By Philip Meese, Chief Editor

Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney’s future has finally been resolved. After thirteen years at Old Trafford, he has returned to his boyhood club, Everton. He returns to Goodison Park having won every trophy at club level, and plenty still to offer the Blues.

With the transfer of Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku expected to be finalised from Everton within the next 24 hours, Rooney would have found getting into the United first team ever harder next season, had he stayed. This would have seriously impacted any hope he had of going to next year’s World Cup, given that he was dropped from Gareth Southgate’s squad last season.

Game Time

Last season was the first time since his arrival that Rooney was not an automatic choice for United. As the campaign wore on, it seemed that the Red Devils were a more effective unit without their captain. The result was that Rooney started just 25 games in all competitions; including the Community Shield, United played 64 matches. Statistics like those tell their own story, especially when Rooney stayed injury free all season.

The fact is that Wayne Rooney is one of those players who has to play all the time, in order to get the best out of him. The fact that he has declined over the last few years is not in doubt, but this is one aspect of his game that has not disappeared. Even when he was at his devastating best, if he spent any prolonged period of time out of the team, it would take him at least two or three game to get back to match fitness. Rooney started seven of United's first eight games, but after that his appearances were rather sporadic. Given that he is well past his peak, his effectiveness was always going to be compromised playing so irregularly.

Another point worth considering is that, at Goodison, he will likely be the main man once more. The truth is that he hasn’t really been that at Old Trafford since United signed Robin van Persie. Even after the Dutchman left two years ago, he was upstaged by new signing Anthony Martial, and Marcus Rashford’s rise from the youth team.

He won’t have the same pressure at Everton, either. While Ronald Koeman is trying to build a side capable of breaking into the Champions League, that’s the minimum expectation at United. Louis van Gaal found this out the hard way. Playing every week, free from the pressure that comes with wearing the red shirt, Rooney might produce his most consistent form. If that happens, he will give Southgate something to think about next summer.


Another reason that this was the right time for him to leave is that his standing as an Old Trafford legend remains untouched. Rooney had two years left on his contract, and given how obvious it has been that his powers are on the wane, it would have been painful to watch this once great player trying to justify the substantial wages he was earning.

In the past, great players such as Eric Cantona and Paul Scholes bowed out just at the right time – even if it took the latter two goes. As soon as they knew they weren’t the player that got them the reputation, they didn’t hang around tarnishing their reputation. Brian McClair is a good example of a player who probably stayed at least two years later than he should. Wayne Rooney leaves Old Trafford having just won the Europa League, the only trophy that was missing from his collection.

Following his departure, there have been plenty of polls on Twitter as to whether Rooney really is a United legend. The question should not even need to be asked. It’s true he embarrassed the club with his transfer request in 2010, followed by his subsequent U-turn which culminated in him signing a new contract. The fact that he never quite became the player he promised to be is also not in doubt. What cannot be questioned, however, is that he is United’s all-time top goalscorer, a feat he achieved while barely into his thirties. Other than the UEFA Super Cup, he has won every club competition he has ever played in. If he isn’t a United legend, it begs the question of what more he would have had to do to become one?

The same can be said of England as well, as he is also his country’s highest ever scorer. While he hasn’t lit up an international tournament since Euro 2004, neither have any of his other international team mates. Steven Gerrard, John Terry and Frank Lampard are all regarded as England legends. What exactly did they do for their national team? What records did they break? None, so if they are legends for their country, so is Rooney. Unlike those players, however, he still has a chance to do something at a major tournament.  

A good example of how Wayne Rooney will be remembered by most United fans, is the videos that are shared by many United pages on social media. Robin van Persie wasn’t the same player in his final season as the one that had won us the title, but these pages constantly show videos of his best goals. Rooney was at Old Trafford ten years longer than van Persie. Given some of the great goals he scored in a red shirt, such as the overhead kick against City, his debut hat trick against Fenerbahçe and the halfway line lob against West Ham, that is how United fans will remember him.

Final Thought

Rooney leaves Manchester United at exactly the right time, for him, United and England. He still potentially has three or four years left at the top level, if he looks after himself. He will be playing in the Premier League for his boyhood club, with the opportunity to go to the World Cup. He could have hung around at Old Trafford, picking up his wages and playing the occasional Champions League game. The reality is that he is at the stage of his career where he just wants to play football.


The cliché says that statistics only tell half the story, and there is a lot of truth to that statement. Once thing is for certain, however. With 253 goals from 559 appearances, Wayne Rooney’s legend at United will remain intact, despite what his haters say. 

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