Wayne Rooney appears to be facing the end of his time with England and Manchester United, having “more or less” decided his future at Old Trafford and been exiled from Gareth Southgate’s latest squad.
The 31-year-old is the record goalscorer for club and country but his status has been declining at a rapid rate over the past year and the end could be in sight on both fronts.
Southgate, while not closing the door entirely on a recall, has left no doubt that he is moving in a different direction, having identified a variety of better options in both the number 10 and centre forward roles for next month’s World Cup qualifier against Scotland and the subsequent friendly in France.
Southgate inherited Rooney as Three Lions captain but, in the space of just a few months, has eased him out of the starting XI, abolished his status as permanent skipper and left him out of successive get togethers, including yesterday’s 25-man panel.
Having overlooked England’s most capped outfield player for March’s games against Germany and Lithuania, citing a lack of minutes at United, Rooney’s increased game time in recent weeks left Southgate reaching for a more stark explanation for his latest omission.
“We have a lot of players playing exceptionally well in the area of the pitch that Wayne plays,” Southgate said.
“I said last time that he was a bit short of matches — he’s had some matches now but we’ve got players that have done really, really well for us in Adam Lallana and Dele Alli.
“We’ve got Marcus Rashford, Harry Kane coming back and Jermain Defoe who did really well for us last time while Jamie Vardy’s been in excellent form in the second half of the season.
“I can’t dress it up any other way. Other players are in really good form and deserve to keep their place.
“You never write off a player of Wayne’s quality and I’m sure that, next season, he’ll be back to playing. He’s finished the season a bit better and I’m sure he’ll take that into next year.”
Where exactly Rooney will be making his case for a recall is open to speculation after 13 medal-laden years with United.
Wednesday night saw Rooney lift a third trophy of the season after United beat Ajax 2-0 in the Europa League final, but his introduction as a late substitute underlines how his status has changed.
Talk over his Old Trafford future has built throughout the season, leading him to release a statement in February claiming he would be staying despite interest from China. But with the season now over, Rooney has to decide whether he is comfortable with his role at United.
“Honestly, I’ve said before, I don’t know,” the United skipper said when asked if he would still be at the club next term.
“I’ve got decisions to make now over the next few weeks, have a word with my family, and then I’ll decide. I think I just have to make a decision in terms of a football decision, and that’s what I’ll do.
“I’ll do that the next few weeks with my family while I’m away and, honestly, as soon as I know what’s going on then, I’m sure you (will know).”
Rooney says “there’s lots of offers on the table, both in England and abroad” but ruled out playing for any Premier League sides other than United or boyhood club Everton.
Pushed on whether he had decided what to do, the United captain said with a smile: “More or less, yeah.”
Asked if he wanted to share his decision, Rooney said with a laugh: “No”.
The United captain does not feel the need to speak to Mourinho before rubber-stamping his decision as “the manager said before he wants me to stay”.
Rooney’s respect for the Portuguese is clear, as is his frustration at a lack of game time.
Quick to reiterate that he has “never once sulked” or dropped his head, the lack of football grates on a player who believes he has “qualities that can help the team”.
“Of course you want to play,” Rooney said. “You want to be on the pitch, of course.
“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 happy to be part of that and in some way help the club win trophies, and that’s the way it’s been over the last 18 months, last year, and that’s a decision I have to make now, whether I want to continue doing that or go on and play more regular football.”
If he goes, Rooney expects to be foregoing more medals given United have found in Mourinho “the right man to lead them”.
“We needed to win trophies,” Rooney said, having added the Europa League to this season’s EFL Cup and Community Shield triumphs.
“To be honest, over the last few years, if you’d have said we’ve won four trophies in the last two years, then you would have thought ‘where are those trophies going to come from?’
“But we’ve done that, we’ve managed to do that, and I feel we’re progressing as a team and a club. And I’m sure there’ll be many more.”
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