With United refusing to discuss a new contract and the end of the summer transfer window on the horizon, the striker must think hard and fast about his future
Now that Wayne Rooney is "angry and confused" with his fall in status at Manchester United, what might be the striker's next move?
José Mourinho is the prime reason why Rooney's next best destination is Chelsea, who can also match his basic £250,000-a-week terms. The world's finest coach taking charge of England's brightest talent might reinvigorate the 27-year-old and harvest a successful title charge for the Blues while transforming Rooney back to his high-octane best for the next summer's World Cup in Brazil, should England qualify. The dream scenario for Rooney, and Chelsea. However, a reservation is whether the new United manager David Moyes would want to sell Rooney to a Premier League rival.
Playing for Arsène Wegner would attract Rooney – but only if he were the Frenchman of 2003-2004, who masterminded the magnificent Invincibles. Since then Wenger has lost his trophy-winning mojo while that summer Rooney moved to United from Everton and claimed five league titles, two League Cups, the Champions League and the World Club Cup in the ensuing nine seasons. In the same period, Arsenal have only the 2005 FA Cup to show for their efforts, and eight years of failure is sure to dissuade Rooney that a move to north London is smart as he enters his peak playing years. However, if Arsenal's £20m bid a few weeks ago remains the sole formal offer it becomes the only viable option and then the dynamic shifts.
The bulletin that Rooney may have become yesterday's man at United arrived when he was dropped by Sir Alex Ferguson for the club's biggest night last season, the spring visit of Real Madrid in the Champions League last-16 second leg. Then thoughts turned to whether Manchester City might revive their interest of October 2010 when Rooney lodged a formal transfer request. The information in March was that Txiki Begiristain, City's director of football, did not fancy Rooney. Football's endless shifting positions means Begiristain's view may have changed five months on, especially as Rooney's prospective price has decreased to a bargain basement fee of around £25m. As with Carlos Tévez's move across Manchester, a transfer to United's bitterest rivals would allow Rooney the best chance of venting his "anger and confusion" at his former club at least twice a season.
Rooney's first choice is Barcelona and with United desiring Cesc Fábregas, a straight swap deal could be the dream outcome for all parties, including Moyes. In that scenario the Scot lands a prime target while offloading Rooney to a club that cannot hurt United domestically. Whether it happens appears unlikely at this juncture, though do not be surprised if the deal is discussed at Old Trafford, at least. Paris Saint-Germain remain the only overseas club to have expressed any desire for Rooney but whether he wants to play in the French league seems questionable.
This is surely the nuclear option. Whether it is United or Rooney who has the greatest grievance, there can be only one winner among fans when their club is in dispute with an unsettled player, and it is not the entity who pulls on the shirt.
To follow Rooney's "rehabilitation" after the 2010 transfer request to him ever wearing United colours again appears unpalatable, and then there is the crucial issue of what each side actually wants. United say Rooney is not for sale but are refusing to enter new contract talks despite him having less than two years left on his current terms. The player, on hearing this, discards the months-long strategy of refusing to comment on his future to let it be known he is fuming at the club, just as 31 August – and the end of the summer transfer window – appears on the horizon.