Wayne Rooney: Man Utd striker's career at crossroads
By Ben SmithBBC Sport
Wayne Rooney was never supposed to grow up into a player who watched on from the substitutes' bench.
This is, after all, the boy wonder who developed into the most naturally gifted English player of his generation, a wrecking-ball of a centre forward who burst onto the scene as a 16-year-old at Everton and captured the attention of the world with some precocious performances at Euro 2004.
But after nine years at Manchester United, Rooney has reached a crossroads in his career following a season in which he has found himself fighting for his place in an increasingly congested forward line.
His peripheral role in the defeat by Real, arguably United's biggest game of the season, hurt the most. Rooney accepted the manager's decision in a dignified manner when the news was broken to him at a team meeting two hours before kick-off. But later, the striker would admit his shock and disappointment to his team-mates.
The disgruntlement has rumbled on. In recent days, it has emerged that Rooney walked into Sir Alex Ferguson's office a fortnight ago and
asked to leave United
for the second time in less than three years.
The response from Ferguson was unequivocal - he would not be allowed a transfer, he would not be sold.
And yet the issue will not go away.
If Rooney really is to stay at United next season, it would either mean agreeing a new contract this summer or being allowed to enter the final two years of the deal
he signed in 2010,
when he came so close to leaving Old Trafford. Privately, leading figures at United are pragmatic about the situation and are open to the possibility of selling Rooney if the right offer comes their way this summer.
Indeed, the club are understood to have misgivings about offering another long-term contract to a player who will be 28 in October and whose natural build has raised questions about whether he can continue to perform regularly at the highest level into his thirties. Rooney, on the other hand, believes he has yet to peak.
There are questions too, over his best position. He has been deployed in central midfield this season, notably against Aston Villa and Stoke, but the player is not yet ready to give up doing what he has done so naturally all his life and put the ball into the back of the net week after week.
By ordinary standards, Rooney has had a fine season, scoring 22 goals in 42 appearances on the way to a fifth Premier League title. He is not, though, judged by ordinary standards.
David Moyes will replace Sir Alex Ferguson at Man Utd - profile
The 50-year-old Scot then sued Rooney
and the publisher HarperCollins over allegations that Moyes leaked details of a private conversation between the pair to the local press. An out-of-court settlement was reached in 2008 and the hatchet has since been buried - they are friends and Moyes consistently and publicly compliments his former fledgling.
But the situation with Rooney at United is delicate and the concern, on both sides, is that the relationship between player and club has been damaged irreparably.
With no particular desire to play abroad, Rooney has in the past said he would like to remain in Manchester for the rest of his career, but with Chelsea already being discussed as a possible destination, he may now be forced to reconsider his options.
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