Football: Rooney weighs up options

The fact that Wayne Rooney is now United's all-time leading scorer would be a key factor in any potential decision to leave the club.
The fact that Wayne Rooney is now United's all-time leading scorer would be a key factor in any potential decision to leave the club.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Chinese move in the mix as United skipper rules out possibility of return to Everton

LONDON • Wayne Rooney is coming to terms with the fact that his Manchester United career may soon be over.

The United and England captain has told friends he may leave Old Trafford in the summer and has not ruled out the prospect of ending his 13-year association with the club next month amid strong interest from the Chinese Super League (CSL).

China's transfer window shuts on Feb 28, opening up the possibility that the 31-year-old could leave for Asia in just four weeks' time.

The Times of London understands that Rooney has ruled out the possibility of rejoining his first club Everton as his next move.

It is understood that he is instead giving serious consideration to playing in China, even though he would prefer a move to Major League Soccer.

A host of Chinese clubs are believed to be more than willing to match his salary of £300,000 (S$530,000) per week. United would also be able to demand a fee for Rooney if he left this year as his contract expires next summer.

Jose Mourinho has not told Rooney that he is surplus to requirements. But the fact that the forward has started just three Premier League games in the past four months suggests that he is no longer essential to the first team.

The Portuguese manager has been impressed by Rooney's attitude since he was dropped, but wants to sign top target Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid this summer.

Griezmann, top scorer at Euro 2016, was third in the Ballon d'Or voting behind winner Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona's Lionel Messi in December. The 25-year-old supported United growing up and has spoken of his desire to play with fellow France international Paul Pogba at club level.

Should the Old Trafford club trigger Griezmann's reported €100 million (S$151.9 million) buyout clause, Rooney's chances of first-team football would recede further.

That he became United's all-time leading scorer with 250 goals last month could make it that much easier for Rooney to say goodbye, with his status as a United legend cemented.

His historic goal against Stoke City, however, was just his second league goal in 16 appearances this season.

British tabloid The Daily Star reported that Rooney's wife Coleen is supportive of his potential move to China but that she would remain in England with their three sons.

Mourinho revealed in a recent interview published on Monday that he would not criticise anyone who made a highly lucrative move to the developing CSL.

"I have already refused a big offer to go to China, but I don't criticise anyone who decides to do it," Mourinho told the monthly GQ men's magazine without disclosing which club made the proposal.

"It's their choice, their life. Only they can decide what they need for their future. Other managers in the Premier League have been critical, but I am no critic."

The Portuguese, however, insisted yesterday that Rooney will remain at United, as would winger Ashley Young, who has also attracted interest from China as well as Swansea, West Ham, West Bromwich Albion and Watford.

"(Young) is staying," Mourinho told a press conference ahead of today's Premier League clash against Hull City. "Definitely stays, he is selected for tomorrow. It's finished, he stays with me until the end of the season."

Asked if Rooney would see out the season as well, the United manager replied: "Yeah. We don't have players in, we don't have players out."

THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 01, 2017, with the headline 'Rooney weighs up options'. Print Edition | Subscribe