Will Rooney's fitness battle be his downfall?

Rooney Everton

Wayne Rooney has been, not for the first time in his career, at the centre of a transfer storm with speculation over his future at Manchester United still shrouded in doubt and speculation.

The 27-year-old England striker handed in a transfer request at the end of the season, according to former manager Sir Alex Ferguson upon his retirement in May.

Whilst the club have stated the striker is not for sale – new boss David Moyes remains adamant that Rooney is highly valued by the club and will not be sold – his hamstring injury suffered during the first training session on their pre-season tour in Bangkok could not have come at a more inopportune moment.

Rooney now faces a race to be fit for the start of the new season next month – Moyes had stated before the team left for the Far East that Rooney was in the best shape in a long time but it would now appear the Scot spoke too soon.

Ferguson stated in the same interview following United’s 20th league title win last term that a fit and in form Wayne Rooney would not have spent as much time on the bench as Rooney did this term.

From the outside, it was clear for all to see that the arrival last summer of Golden Boot winner Robin van Persie seemed to coincide with Rooney’s slide down the pecking order at Old Trafford.

All and sundry have urged the England number 10 to stay put with former players, legends and media commentators insisting on numerous occasions that leaving the champions would be a mistake that, ultimately, he may well end up regretting.

Chelsea and Arsenal have emerged as potential suitors this summer, along with the likes of Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid on the continent but there must now be concerns, for both Manchester United and any potential buyers, that he’s past the peak in terms of his fitness and his form.

Before the arrival of the Dutch ace, Rooney has made 44 appearances for United and scored 34 goals in 2011/12 but last term he made 36 appearances and scored just 16 goals – in the Premier League, his tally was just 12.

Rooney was benched for important fixtures, most notably the second leg of United’s Champions League defeat to Real Madrid at Old Trafford. Ferguson had stated the previous term that Rooney’s recovery from injury, apparently due to his build, is a more difficult process.

Rooney is not built like, for example Cristiano Ronaldo or Gareth Bale – he is not physically a natural athlete, despite his obviously impeccable ability and record. He does have to watch his diet and his health and fitness in a more regimented and cautious way. We all remember when he was a short, chunky little upstart at Everton and Moyes will know better than anyone how hard the striker has to work to make his transformation into a goalscoring machine.

Now, with his injury ahead of the new season, it’s clear he’s not going to get a full pre-season – he’ll be lucky to get a pre-season at all – and the majority of players and managers cite a good pre-season is oftentimes the foundation of a solid season.

Between the injury, the transfer request and the fact his contract enters its final year next summer, I wonder whether United and David Moyes may cut their losses on Wayne Rooney? This latest injury could indeed be the beginning of the end of his United career.

image: © gordonflood.com

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