Wayne Rooney reportedly asked to leave Old Trafford at the end of last season and was subsequently a target for Jose Mourinho and Chelsea, but United turned down three bids for the former Everton striker. As a result, Mourinho was forced to give up his pursuit...for the time being, at least.
But now with United struggling under David Moyes, rumours have surfaced again regarding Chelsea's interest in Rooney.
Samuel Eto'o, Fernando Torres and Demba Ba have combined for only seven league goals this season, and the club have been strongly linked with moves for the likes of Falcao, Diego Costa and Gonzalo Higuain in a bid to solve their striking problems.
Chelsea obviously have the funds available for a blockbuster transfer, with Roman Abramovich's money still flowing through the club. Mourinho is evidently a big fan of Rooney, and while a January move is highly unlikely, another attempt in the summer could be on the cards after it was revealed that Rooney has been stalling on a new contract at United, suggesting he still sees his future away from the club.
With United almost certainly looking at a rebuilding process under Moyes, the time may be coming to let Rooney go – even if that means selling him to a title rival. But in order to let Rooney go, they should seek somebody in return – somebody who has recently had a run in with authoritarian Mourinho – Romelu Lukaku.
The Belgian international is currently enjoying another fruitful loan spell away from Stamford Bridge, and the 20-year-old has revealed that he would be willing to leave Stamford Bridge permanently, with his relationship with Mourinho seemingly frosty.
In order to let Rooney leave, United need to ensure they are compensated accordingly.
By allowing Rooney to leave in exchange for Lukaku, Mourinho gets the striker he wants and United are able to replace a vital component of their team with a player who could become one of the finest strikers in the world. Lukaku's potential is off the charts and his style of play is certainly reminiscent of Dider Drogba, and would provide the perfect foil for Robin van Persie, Javier Hernandez or Danny Welbeck.
Neither team will want to strengthen their rival, but an exchange of the two big-name strikers could be beneficial for all parties.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald