Sun | Jan 21, 2018

So long, Wayne? - Cup final may be Rooney's last United game

Published:Wednesday | May 24, 2017 | 12:00 AM
United's Wayne Rooney (centre) walks on the pitch with his teammates at the Friends Arena in Stockholm, Sweden yesterday. Ajax Amsterdam and Manchester United will play the Europa League final in Stockholm today.


Wayne Rooney could finish his Manchester United career by hoisting a European trophy, surrounded by jubilant teammates and with fireworks exploding around him.

Still, it wouldn't be quite the end he would have envisioned after 13 years at the English club.

Rooney is set to be a substitute for United today in the Europa League final against Ajax in Stockholm, a role which the club's captain and record scorer has become increasingly accustomed to this season. Depending on the situation in the match, he might not even come on.

That's how it's been for most of this season, watching from afar at a club where he was once the main man.

Talk about United's key players ahead of a final that means so much to the English club, and many would say Marcus Rashford or Paul Pogba or Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

Few would say Rooney.

United are moving on under Jose Mourinho and Rooney is being left behind. Speculation grows that James Rodriguez will be moving to Old Trafford from Real Madrid, adding to the list of attackers who will be ahead of Rooney in the pecking order next season.

There was a symbolic moment Sunday on the final day of the Premier League season. Rooney was one of the few senior players picked for a virtually meaningless match against Crystal Palace Mourinho rested most of his Europa League starters and he was replaced in the final minutes by 16-year-old attacking midfielder Angel Gomes, who became the first player born this millennium to play in the Premier League.

Rooney applauded all corners of Old Trafford and walked off with his head down. Was he saying goodbye to the stadium he has played at since 2004, when at 18 he made a spectacular debut by scoring a hat trick in a Champions League game against Fenerbahce?

Since then, he has racked up 253 goals for United to surpass Bobby Charlton's longstanding club record. He is also England's record scorer with 53 goals, again overtaking Charlton.