Who is United’s biggest asset?

Is Wayne Rooney set to join Paul McGrath, Norman Whiteside, Jaap Stam, David Beckham, Roy Keane and Carlos Tevez in the discarded pile? That’s what today’s Independent is suggesting.

It follows a difficult 15 months in his relationship with manager Alex Ferguson. Rooney flirted covertley with Manchester City in late 2010 following a reported fall out with Ferguson. After supposedly making it clear he would not sign a new deal he did just that within days … and secured a pay rise.

Over Christmas he was fined and dropped after going out for dinner with teammates following the 5-0 win against Wigan. Despite not breaking any club rules the club’s coaching staff said that Rooney (along with his co-conspirators Darron Gibson (yes, he still exists) and Jonny Evans) was not performing to an acceptable level at training.

Rooney returned in the 3-0 defeat at Newcastle but was largely ineffective and was substituted. The forward is regarded as one of the most talented players of his generation but is dogged by on-field misdemeanors and fits of pique. He is due to serve a two match ban at Euro 2012 for a needless red card in the final qualifying game against Montenegro. His attitude and body language are frequently questioned and has even attracted attention for aggressive responses on Twitter to a goading follower.

Rooney and United have issued a joint statement already to say it’s nonsense but it seems that things are not right between player and club. Most of those moved on by Ferguson have been expendable (even if Paul McGrath undermined Fergie’s lack of faith with a seven year stint at Aston Villa and top class performances at two World Cups).  But Rooney, yet to really reach his peak as a professional footballer, occupies a talismanic place in United folklore.  Only David Beckham – sold at 28 – could claim to have been sold unwillingly while at his zenith.

United need Rooney, perhaps more than Rooney needs them.  He could walk in to any team in the world.  I’m sure Jose Mourinho would make him a mainstay at the Bernabeu and Roberto Mancini would probably be happy to replace Tevez with the United number ten.

So the question is, what serves United best?  A future without Rooney?  Or a future without Ferguson?

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