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Transfer Rater: Boateng to Manchester United

Football Whispers

Man United fans will get a chance to say goodbye to Rooney on Sunday

On Sunday, Wayne Rooney returns to Old Trafford with Everton to face Manchester United, the club for which he played from 2004 until last May.

His final competitive appearance in red -- he would later play in Michael Carrick's testimonial -- came in the last Premier League game of last season, when he was substituted with two minutes left and received the closest thing to a goodbye that the fans could give; at the time, his future was yet to be resolved.

Manchester UnitedManchester United
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Another month went by before Rooney was unveiled as an Everton player, the day before it was announced that Romelu Lukaku was heading in the opposite direction. As such, the chapter closed on the Old Trafford career of United's all-time leading scorer.

While Rooney has been received like the Prodigal Son, with memories of him kissing the United badge at Goodison Park forgotten, it's worth remembering that he would still be playing for Jose Mourinho, had the manager wanted to keep him. United fans used to chant "once a blue, always a red" when facing Everton, but Rooney didn't get his wish of seeing out his career in Manchester.

In the summer before the season started, Rooney had claimed he wanted to sign another contract extension at the club and see out his career at United. Even at the end of the season, as he prepared to sit out the Europa League final, just as he had the EFL Cup final, he insisted that he wanted to stay. 

The feeling wasn't mutual, though, so Rooney made a hero's return to Everton and, while it was enabled by United's decision to move him on, there's something appealing in footballers still holding some sentimentality for a particular club.

Mourinho handled the situation perfectly at the beginning of last season. The manager started Rooney in the first five Premier League games, allowing people to see how unworthy he was of being a regular in the team, before dropping him to the substitute's bench. Rooney clearly wasn't happy with his lack of playing time but Everton boss Ronald Koeman has given him a starting spot.

Wayne Rooney scored 253 goals in 559 games during his Manchester United career.

Having already scored in Manchester this season, bagging the opening goal at the Etihad Stadium against Man City, Rooney will be keen to get another at Old Trafford. Out of respect, he won't celebrate, which is more than lifelong red Danny Welbeck managed while playing for Arsenal in 2015, but that doesn't mean he won't be looking for a way to prove his loyalty to the fans he left behind in 2004.

Travelling back along the East Lancs Road to Merseyside, Rooney took him with him winners' medals for five Premier League titles, as well as three League Cups, a Champions League, an FA Cup, a Europa League and a Club World Cup. Surely Evertonians cannot longer begrudge him the move he made.

Equally, the United fans who chanted Rooney's name every week before his transfer will likely do the same on Sunday. Despite asking to leave the club twice, he still has a strong following among match-going United supporters and they will relish the opportunity to show their appreciation for him once more.

In the summer of 2013, when Rooney was linked with a move to play for Mourinho at Chelsea, the reception he received from away fans on the opening day of the season at Swansea showed that most were willing to forgive and forget. If they could sing his song then, they certainly will now. 

You would imagine that many of those who held a grudge for the rest of Rooney's time at the club will still greet him warmly; it's water under the bridge and, with United top of the league, fans have more important things to worry about than whether Rooney had asked to sign for City or Chelsea in the past.

Rooney has already had his United testimonial, against Everton in the summer of 2016, but this weekend's fixture will be the opportunity for him to say goodbye. And, whatever happens in the game, there won't be many United fans who are disappointed to see him wearing blue instead of red this season.

Scott is one of ESPN FC's Manchester United bloggers. Follow him on Twitter: @R_o_M.


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