Wayne Rooney appears to be facing the end of the road with England and Manchester United, with a number of transfer offers on the table and a telling omission from Gareth Southgate’s latest international squad.
Southgate overlooked the 31-year-old in a 25-man squad to face Scotland and France next month, less than a day after what could be his United swansong as a late substitute in the club’s Europa League final victory.
With a recall highly unlikely as Southgate looks to build a side around younger legs, attention turns to his club future and the increasingly likely prospect of exiting Old Trafford after 13 trophy-laden years.
Speaking after the Red Devils’ win over Ajax in Stockholm, Rooney accepted he had some thinking to do and confirmed his boyhood club Everton were the only English club he would consider leaving for, while links with a big-money switch to China persist.
“I’ve got decisions to make now over the next few weeks, have a word with my family, and then I’ll decide,” he said. “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. There’s lots of offers on the table, both in England and abroad. I’ve played for two clubs and they’re the only two Premier League clubs I’ll play for.”
Asked if he was close to a decision, he said with a smile: “More or less, yeah.”
Former captain Rooney was omitted from the last England get-together in March, when Southgate cited a lack of playing time at Old Trafford as the primary reason. However, having started six of United’s last seven Premier League games that reasoning no longer holds water.
Instead, Southgate was forced to deliver a hard truth. After an outfield record 119 caps and an unparalleled 53 goals, Rooney is simply not considered up to standard any more.
“We have a lot of players playing exceptionally well in the area of the pitch that Wayne plays,” Southgate told thefa.com.
“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.”
Rashford’s presence in the seniors ended the prospect of a club-versus-country fight with United over his participation in the Under-21 European Championship. The 19-year-old will not travel to Poland for the tournament.
Southgate handed a maiden call-up to Tottenham full-back Kieran Trippier, retained veteran Defoe and Middlesbrough defender Ben Gibson and was able to select Premier League golden boot winner Kane for the first time.