Date: 30th December 2016 at 2:49pm
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Wayne Rooney has been a fantastic servant to Manchester United since joining from boyhood club Everton in 2004. At the time, the £25.6 million fee was a world record for a player under the age of 20 but the sum wasn’t questioned: everybody knew that Rooney was going to be a modern great… and he will certainly be remembered fondly in the Old Trafford history books.

During his 12-year stint at United, Rooney has made 540 appearances in all competitions – scoring 248 goals in the process. The United captain is one goal shy of Sir Bobby Charlton’s club record and Rooney will almost certainly climb above the Red Devils legend before the end of the campaign.

However, he has cut a controversial figure at times during his career and many fans will find it hard to near-on impossible to tar Rooney with the same brush as United great Charlton. Rooney’s Old Trafford loyalty has been called into question on more than one occasion over the years and two written transfer requests have hindered his relationship with the fans.

In October 2010, Rooney asked to leave the club before backtracking and signing an extension with the club and the England international did exactly the same in 2013. Ultimately, a large chunk of United’s ardent supporters believe that the striker was angling for a mega-money move to arch rivals Manchester City – an unforgivable move if ever there was one.

In the end, Rooney stayed and still remains a key figure at United to this day. Whilst he is no longer able to produce lung bursting runs or bully opponents off the ball, the Red Devils star still has a role to play at Old Trafford.

United boss Jose Mourinho tried to sign Rooney during his first spell at Chelsea and the Portuguese is still very fond of the England captain. He has moved to back his captain on a number of occasions this season. It would be foolish to claim that Rooney is still at his peak but he is far from finished – a belief backed up by the statistic from @OptaJoe below.

Instead of turning on Rooney, United supporters must realise that he can still influence matches but perhaps needs to be used sparingly instead of starting every game.

At 31 years old, Rooney should be able to compete week-in-week-out but the United star has had an extraordinary career and fans must remember this. Since moving to Old Trafford, Rooney has averaged over 50 games a season for the last decade and that kind of workload will eventually take its toll – and it apparently has done so.

The United star has actually found some of his best form in recent weeks and Mourinho will be hoping that Rooney may feel the benefit of his extended rest in the second half of the season. As of December 22nd, Rooney has featured in 26 games so far this campaign – although a number of these appearances were cameo roles from the substitute’s bench.

In United’s most recent encounter, a 2-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion, Rooney provided the assist for Zlatan Ibrahimović’s second goal of the game and he has actually started to look more settled in a conservative role under Mourinho. However, it would be unfair to expect too much from him on a weekly basis; he is unable to replicate this kind of form on a consistent basis anymore.

Rooney’s loyalty will be tested in the near future. With just a couple of years remaining on his current deal, the United captain may be asked to take a pay cut in order to stay at Old Trafford. If Rooney’s primary aim is financial gain, a move to the MLS or even the Chinese Super League could be on the cards. In all honesty, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Rooney push for one last pay day but it would be refreshing from an English football fan’s viewpoint if he was to end his career in the Premier League.

Too many modern greats, namely Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, have ended their respective careers abroad and it would be great to see Rooney hang up his boots at either Old Trafford or Goodison Park. Whatever happens, Rooney will go down in history as one of England and Manchester United’s greatest talents.

At the time of writing, United are 13 points behind runaway leaders Chelsea in the Premier League title race and the Red Devils are in dire need of a typical Rooney burst of energy to reignite their bid for the crown. According to Oddschecker, Mourinho’s side are priced at 20/1 with Coral to record yet another championship success and Rooney’s influence on the younger players will certainly help United to stay strong in the second half of the campaign.

The likes of Marcus Rashford, Jessie Lingard and Eric Bailly can learn a lot from Rooney’s focus, conduct and actions – whether that is on the training ground at Carrington or on the sacred Old Trafford pitch.

Whatever happens in the next few months, Rooney has been a key figure for the Red Devils for quite some time and he will be remembered by most as an Old Trafford icon. During his stint at United, Rooney has won five Premier League titles, one FA Cup, one Football League Cup and one Champions League crown on that fateful night in Moscow back in 2008.

Love him or hate him, Rooney is a hero of the modern game and United fans must acknowledge and respect his achievements. He might not have the class or heart of Sir Bobby Charlton but nobody can fault Rooney’s commitment and desire to lead Manchester United to success – and that is the difference between a good footballer and a great one.