12 May 2013: A sad day for Manchester United and a shocking one for Wayne Rooney as Sir Alex Ferguson manages his last game at the Theatre of Dreams and confirms that the Englishman has asked for a transfer request.
1 July 2013: David Moyes takes over the Old Trafford hot seat and starts the life after Ferguson era at the club. Later during preseason, the former Everton manager reveals that if for any reason Robin van Persie is injured, he is going to need Rooney; a statement to pour more gasoline on the transfer speculations linking Rooney with a move the Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea.
The 2013/14 season starts and the summer transfer window shuts, while Rooney is still an “unhappy” Manchester United player. But on 21 February 2014, the club puts an end to all those transfer rumors as the England international pens a new £300k-a-week deal which keeps the striker at United until June 2019.
22 April 2014: David Moyes’ Old Trafford managerial career ends miserably and is replaced by Dutch manager Louis van Gaal. The man who appoints Wayne Rooney as club captain, an honor for the player who was promised to earn when he renewed his contract.
September 2015: BBC release a documentary about Rooney’s life “The Man Behind The Goals” as the Manchester United captain confirms that he didn't hand in a transfer request in 2013 but he did discuss his future with Sir Alex Ferguson.
Change had been constant for Rooney
Change has been the only constant in the player’s career since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson. Or, perhaps that should read, change is still a huge constant in Rooney’s footballing life until today. Rooney is on good terms with the club management but he actually had to cope with the many changes in his playing position.
Ever since the 2012/13 season, United's captain has been deployed in different positions for his club and country. He has played as a center forward, in the number 10 position, as a left/right forward, and in central midfield.
The essential adaption due to an ever-changing playing position was not the only challenge he had to cope with. The England captain has also worked under different managers during the same period. Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement had witnessed the player working under David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho at club level, where at international level, the former Everton man has worked under Roy Hodgson and currently under new England manager Sam Allardyce.
How many players have joined Manchester United since the 2012/13 season? How many of them succeeded and stayed at the club? How many tactical changes has the team undergone through in the past four years?
Whatever the answer of the above questions is, Rooney has had to cope with them all, making him give his best to cope with the dynamics of the game, let alone the ups and downs the club had gone through.
Did he ever complain? Supposedly, no. On the contrary, he’s battled all the challenges and kept breaking records for club and country. Rooney is three goals (246 to date) away from reaching Sir Bobby Charlton’s record (of 249 goals) as a United player. He is also his country’s top scorer with 53 goals for the Three Lions so far.
The general verdict
People, or at least those who witnessed the great sides of the mid-2000s, were used to watching a Rooney who tore opposition defenders apart. But they don’t look at the responsibilities Rooney holds now in comparison to that period. The focus is on Rooney alone, rather than the overall team performance.
Jose Mourinho stated that his captain won’t play as a number six, but the reality is that the player still covers the central midfield areas to help the team in the buildup process from the back.
Is Rooney past his best? It’s unfair to say yes, but it is also unfair, and mildly ridiculous, to say that he’s on the top of his game at the moment.
We are still in the early days of the season and the Portuguese manager can get Rooney back to his best with his strong man management abilities.
Manchester United fans should also understand and appreciate the fact that the team has a plenty of new players who need to settle well at the club and a strong manager who is a proven winner and can certainly get back the club to where it belongs. Rooney needs to perform to be a part of the team, and perhaps his recent downfall is due to his consistent acceptance of floating around the pitch in a plethora of positions.