Wayne Rooney: Manchester United captain has 'more or less' decided future

Wayne Rooney
Substitute Wayne Rooney looks on from the sidelines during Manchester United's Europa League final victory

Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney says he has "more or less" decided his future at the club.

The 31-year-old has played a bit-part role for United this season, coming on as a last-minute substitute in the Europa League final triumph over Ajax.

"There's lots of offers on the table, both in England and abroad," he said.

But United's all-time leading scorer with 253 goals said he would only move to former club Everton if he stayed in the Premier League.

It is understood Rooney does not want the issue to drag on until the final day of the transfer window on 31 August, and he will go away with his family to discuss and decide on his next course of action.

Rooney has ruled out playing for any other Premier League side apart from Everton, while Toffees manager Ronald Koeman and director of football Steve Walsh have both said publicly this season they would be interested in the player should he become available.

Rooney joined the Old Trafford club for £27m in 2004 and has gone on to play more than 550 games, breaking Sir Bobby Charlton's 44-year goalscoring record this season.

But he has only started 15 league games this term and failed to play in the EFL Cup final victory over Southampton at Wembley.

Rooney's dwindling Premier League appearances
Games playedMinutesGames startedSub appearances
2016-17251,5391510
2015-16282,410271
2014-15332,876330
2013-14292,448272

He is also England's all-time leading scorer with 53 goals, but has been left out of Gareth Southgate's latest squad for the World Cup qualifier against Scotland on 10 June and the friendly against France three days later.

"Of course you want to play," said Rooney. "You want to be on the pitch. I think a younger me would have been a lot more frustrated. I think I understand what's right and what's needed for the club, and I respect that.

"Obviously I am happy to be part of that [Europa League win] and in some way help the club win trophies, and that is the way it's been over the last 18 months and last year.

"That is a decision I have to make now, whether I want to continue doing that or go on and play more regular football."

BBC Sport's Simon Stone looks at the player's options:

End of an era?

As with John Terry at Chelsea, Rooney appears to have slowly been eased out of the first-team, without there being one single pressure point that signalled a change in Mourinho's thinking.

It felt like a poignant moment when Rooney waved to both ends of Old Trafford as he was given a standing ovation after being substituted two minutes from the end of Manchester United's final game of the Premier League season on Saturday.

Then, on an emotional night in Stockholm, he came on as a 90th-minute substitute to rapturous applause and was front and centre in the celebrations that followed United's Europa League final victory over Ajax. Was this really a final goodbye for the club's record goalscorer?

The England dimension

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Wayne Rooney goes top of England goalscoring chart

Rooney announced in August 2016 that the 2018 World Cup would be his last international tournament - England are well placed to qualify, being four points clear at the top of the group having played half of their 10 games.

Already England's highest goalscorer, with 53, and most-capped outfield player with 119, if Rooney can force his way back into Southgate's plans for the finals in Russia, he would almost certainly eclipse Peter Shilton's overall record of 125 appearances.

In addition, he would become the first England international to have played at four World Cups and the first to have played in seven major tournaments.

Rooney is aware of the milestone and, having committed so much time to his England career since making his debut against Australia in February 2003, it would not be dismissed lightly.

But, after Southgate did not pick Rooney for the World Cup qualifier with Slovenia in October, he dropped the striker altogether for the matches against Lithuania and Germany in March.

So does this latest omission now take the England dimension out of Rooney's thinking altogether?

Rooney remains available for England and does not feel he has a right to be picked. And the international door cannot be regarded as completely closed yet.

Rooney only played one game between 1 February and 1 April because of injury. And Southgate has already shown that age is no barrier - he picked striker Jermain Defoe, who is three years older than the Manchester United man and had not played for England since November 2013, back in March.

Evidently, to be considered for selection, Rooney must be playing regularly and in form - according to Southgate, certainly more than just five starts in games with little at stake but pride.

It is also worth noting that the only player to play for England whilst being at a club outside Europe is David Beckham, who played 14 times between August 2007 and October 2009 while being at Major League Soccer outfit LA Galaxy and a further five times in 2009 when on loan from the Galaxy to AC Milan.

Beckham never played in a major tournament during his time with the Galaxy as England failed to qualify for Euro 2008 and he was ruled out of the 2010 World Cup after rupturing his Achilles tendon.

Will he stay at United?

At the start of the season, United boss Jose Mourinho talked up Rooney as "my man", saying "the best is yet to come" from his captain. And immediately after the Ajax victory Mourinho was still insisting he would be "happy" for a "very important" Rooney to stay next season.

Rooney, 31, finished the campaign with a run of five Premier League starts - yet this was the first time since the very start of the season.

And that run of games came with Mourinho calling them "just matches we do not want to play" as he publically prioritised the Europa League campaign.

Before the Europa League semi-final against Celta Vigo at Old Trafford, it was interesting to see Rooney appear at the press conference.

Both club and player knew he would be asked about his future at United, with each side knowing the answer needed to be a political one to avoid the potential for negative headlines.

Rooney's answers were largely neutral. When pushed, he did say his preference would be to stay at United and play for them, but, under the circumstances, it would be difficult for him to suggest anything else.

Rooney accepts he is not going to start every game and moving on is not straightforward. It would be a wrench for him to leave a club he joined as a teenager in 2004.

He still has two seasons left on a contract worth £13m-a-year - which is difficult to see any club outside the top six in England matching, or even getting close.

Other than Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, the same is also true on mainland Europe, while in the US - another suggested destination - the highest paid player in Major League Soccer is Brazilian forward Kaka, who earns $7.167m (£5.51m).

That's less of an issue for clubs in the Chinese Super League - according to documents released recently by Football Leaks, Argentina's Ezequiel Lavezzi is the game's biggest earner, on a wage of £798,000-a-week - £41.5m-a-year - at Hebei China Fortune. But even Chinese clubs are starting to reign in their spending.

From those figures, any move away from Old Trafford for Rooney, other than to China, could get complicated and raise the potential for United having to pay part of his contract to make a deal financially viable.

China calling?

Rooney's long-time adviser Paul Stretford held talks with Chinese Super League club Tianjin Quanjian earlier in the season.

He travelled to China, where he has business interests through his Red Lantern digital media company, which has an office in Beijing, to see if he could complete a transfer prior to the Chinese Super League transfer deadline closing on 28 February.

Nothing could be concluded, but it is understood interest in signing Rooney in China is strong due to his high-profile and huge commercial value.

Chinese Super League clubs are allowed to pick three overseas players in their matchday squads, although they are allowed to sign four.

Currently, the only two clubs who do not have four overseas players are Jiangsu Suning, who have the same owners as Inter Milan, and Liaoning Whowin.

Is this realistic though for both parties? Rooney would potentially be the only Englishman in the league, far from home and China is introducing new rules discouraging spending on high-profile stars when their summer transfer window opens on 19 June.

Other options abroad

Though they live in an exclusive part of Cheshire, Rooney and wife Coleen retain strong links to their Liverpool roots.

Their three children were born in the city, both sets of parents and extended family still live there. Leaving, undoubtedly, would be a wrench.

The MLS has worked for former England team-mates Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, as well as Ashley Cole, who still plays for LA Galaxy. Former United team-mate Bastian Schweinsteiger is playing well for Chicago Fire, although the money is a lot less.

There are eight MLS teams who currently have space in their three-man 'Designated Player' roster.

Galaxy, whose big spending included the arrival of David Beckham, were prepared to make changes to their squad during the summer transfer window so they could sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic from Manchester United and make him the highest-paid player in MLS history.

However, it is understood they have no interest in signing Rooney as an alternative to the Swede, who will miss the remainder of the year after rupturing cruciate ligaments.

Or could it be Everton?

Wayne Rooney's testimonial for Manchester United against boyhood club Everton at Old Trafford in August 2016
"Once a blue, always a blue" - Wayne Rooney's testimonial for Manchester United against boyhood club Everton at Old Trafford in August 2016

In June 2016, when Rooney announced a planned testimonial against his only other professional club - and the one he supported as a boy - Everton, Rooney made a significant statement.

He said: "Manchester United and Everton are the only clubs I have played for as a professional footballer. I am happy to say now that, whatever may happen in the future, I will never play for another Premier League club."

Rooney has never gone back on those words - and there has been no indication from anyone close to him that the position has changed.

But if he was drafting a testimonial statement now, would it be so definitive?

When he issued the statement, Rooney had come back from injury to start United's final eight games of the season, including the FA Cup final and semi-final, and was about to captain England at Euro 2016.

At that point there was no reason to believe he would be looking at moving - to Everton or anywhere else - until after the 2018 World Cup at the earliest.

Mourinho has said of Rooney, and other players, that he would not prevent him leaving United if that was what he wanted.

In February, manager Ronald Koeman said Rooney "would be welcome" at Everton.

Rooney remains one of the most marketable players in the game and his presence at Goodison Park would help open commercial doors Everton's ambitious owner Farhad Moshiri knows would be useful in his attempts to gatecrash the current top six.

Equally though, Koeman may not see the same value in signing a player who will be 32 in October and has been through so many demanding seasons at the highest level for club and country since making the last of his 77 Everton appearances against Manchester City in May 2004.

By sticking with his 'no-one but United and Everton in the Premier League' stance, Rooney would be closing off the likes of West Ham, West Brom and Stoke who have either bought experienced players to further their cause in the past, or have managers who are adept at doing so.

"I've got decisions to make now over the next few weeks, have a word with my family, and then I'll decide," Rooney said in the aftermath of Wednesday's Europa League final. "I think I just have to make a decision in terms of a football decision, and that's what I'll do."

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