One on One: Is Wayne Rooney finished as a Premier League footballer?
In this week’s debate, our writers discuss what’s next for the ailing Manchester United captain...
Tom: Right, after his performance against Arsenal, I'm sure we both agree that Rooney is done at Manchester United.
But you're taking it one step further and saying that he’s done as a Premier League player in general. Do you really believe that?
Adam: I really do. Rooney's only impact at Arsenal was negative, and confirmed my long-held suspicion that he has completely burned out.
Over-hit set pieces, heavy touches and misplaced passes meant that any energy that remains was spent chasing balls he'd given away.
They are not attributes desired by any Premier League team.
Were he to move elsewhere, it wouldn’t be a repeat of, say, Jonny Evans or Darren Fletcher, who had not appreciably worsened and had plenty to offer sides with fewer major aspirations.
Rooney’s collapse means that I fail to see what he would offer even Swansea or Hull, let alone Everton. Is there something I'm missing?
Tom: Not necessarily.
Everything you said about Rooney's display at the Emirates is true. Not for the first time this campaign, he was a liability.
But while his physical decline is irreversible, I’d like to think that he could recover some of his technical ability.
There's no reason for it to have abandoned him completely, and I think it has at the moment because his confidence is shot to pieces.
This year has been an absolute disaster for him. Perhaps a summer off – he has struggled the season after a major tournament for a while now – and a new club could revitalise him somewhat.
Adam: But it's not all about this season.
Louis van Gaal's confused approach as to how to best use him was not just mismanagement. Rooney himself failed to dominate any one playing position.
His performances – after a summer free of international football – were anonymous, to the point that Mourinho would not have been heavily criticised for dropping him immediately in August.
In the end, he was benched after just five league matches. His trajectory has been downwards for too long for it to just be a confidence issue.
If revitalisation is possible, though, where do you see it happening?
Tom: One of the worst things Van Gaal did was indulge Rooney's fanciful notion that he would play out his thirties as some world-class deep-lying playmaker.
That was never going to happen, and Rooney was foolish for thinking it possible.
But while last season wasn't vintage, it’s worth remembering that before he suffered a knee ligament injury in February, he'd scored seven goals in seven games as a striker and was on course to net 20 goals in all competitions.
When he returned two months later, some lad named Marcus Rashford had come into the team, causing Rooney to have a re-think.
If he accepts that he should play as a goal poacher – operating within the width of the penalty box, using his experience to sniff out chances – and has the desire to play for a lesser club (otherwise known as taking a pay cut) then I think he can offer something.
When I put it like that, do you not think Everton would take a chance on him?
If not, then where will/should he go? He's not going to call it a day at 31.
Adam: Firstly, I'm not so sure any pay cut will be significant enough for signing Rooney to be considered taking "a chance".
He may be prepared to trim a few quid off, but will he agree to anything less than a substantial six-figure salary? Almost certainly not.
His ability to operate as a poacher has to be called into question, too.
Of his four league goals this season, two were set pieces, while the Premier League's dubious goal committee evidently couldn't find it in their hearts to declare the extravagantly-celebrated, undoubtedly off-target effort against Burnley as an own goal.
When presented with the ball six yards out – and only Petr Cech to beat – on Sunday, he fluffed his lines.
I see no basis in the idea that he still possesses any of the clarity of mind, or sharpness, to pounce on poacher's chances.
As Jack Pitt-Brooke tweeted on Sunday: "This Wayne Rooney performance is a bit... Hebei China Fortune."
If Rooney wants a fraction of his current salary, he may need to give the Hebei lads a call.
Tom: His celebration against Burnley made me feel a bit sorry for him. It must be a horrible feeling to be rubbish at something you were once great at. In public, too.
I take your point about salary. If he wants to stay in the Premier League, then he would have to accept a heavily-incentivised deal.
What is in his favour, though, is that the silly money in the Premier League means clubs will be shelling out huge amounts for average players this summer.
I just think that someone will be happy to take a punt on Manchester United and England's record goalscorer.
But if bunse is all that he’s looking at, then he should go to China.
I can't imagine Coleen being too happy about that, though...
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