Wayne Rooney was given the green light to leave Manchester United once he surpassed Sir Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record.
Eclipsing Charlton as United’s all-time leading scorer was the only hurdle to overcome before Rooney could begin to call time on his glittering Old Trafford career.
After 549 appearances, 250 goals and having won every honour in the English game, Rooney’s United career is effectively over, his place in the club’s rich history assured.
With the 31-year-old struggling to be fit for Sunday’s EFL Cup final against Southampton, Rooney may have already played his last game for United.
United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has given Rooney’s agent Paul Stretford the go-ahead to secure his client a lucrative move to the Chinese Super League.
With transfer deadline day in China on Tuesday, United’s 4-0 FA Cup win over Wigan on January 29 could ultimately turn out to be the last time Rooney pulled on the famous red shirt.
A United insider said: “Nothing could happen until Wayne beat Sir Bobby’s United goal-scoring record. We all knew that once he’d beaten that, the time would come to review his career here.
“Everything remains totally amicable. We are well aware of what Wayne has done for the club and he appreciates the career he’s had here.
“But sometimes it’s best for all the parties concerned to look at where we stand and plan a way forward that works for everyone.”
Charlton’s United record had stood since his retirement in 1973. Charlton, now a director at Old Trafford, presented Rooney with a trophy to commemorate his record-breaking achievement. Ironically, that salute came before Rooney’s last starting appearance at Old Trafford against Wigan.
Remarkably, United will be able to claw back the £27million they paid Everton for Rooney back in 2004, with Chinese clubs willing to pay around £30m to lure him.
Rooney will be able to command a weekly salary in the region of £750,000-a-week in the Far East, which is more than double his current salary at United.
Mourinho acknowledged United’s improvement this season without Rooney in the starting line-up, despite the forward only having returned to training yesterday after injury.
“Rooney is injured and has been injured for two or three weeks,” said Mourinho. “I cannot do miracles at that level.
“When you don’t have a player, you have others. The team is in a good moment.
“In the past four months we lost only one game, and we lost a game we could lose, because it was a two-legged match for the League Cup.
“The team is in a good moment. We have players in attacking areas and they are playing well. Rooney is injured, simple.”
Rooney will want to end his remarkable United career on a high on Sunday, lifting the EFL Cup at Wembley before saying an emotional goodbye after 13 years.
The forward will do all he can to ensure he is fit and can claim a place among Mourinho’s subs, with the United boss said to be willing to hand his skipper the farewell he craves.
Rooney, who has started one of United’s last nine games, trained yesterday for the first time in three weeks, with Mourinho giving a frank assessment of his skipper’s current predicament.
“When the training session was high in intensity, he wasn’t training, so no chance for tomorrow, he’s not here,” said Mourinho.
“So he stayed back for training and let’s see for the weekend.”
Opinion will be divided among United fans over Rooney’s imminent departure. Those who idolise him will be sad to see him go, while a section of United’s fans cannot forgive him for twice threatening to leave the club.
The first time, in October 2010, when Rooney questioned United’s ambition in an unseemly public spat with the club and insisted he would leave when his current deal expired, the saga ended with him signing a lucrative new five-year deal.
When Ferguson stepped down in 2013, having secured his 13th Premier League title, he claimed Rooney had handed in a transfer request that had been rejected, with his successor David Moyes resisting Chelsea’s attempts to sign him. Jose Mourinho was the Chelsea boss at the time.
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