Why Arsenal boss should bid for Man Utd star Rooney
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Over the last two summer breaks, Arsenal fans have looked on in anguish and frustration as the club waved goodbye to Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie.
This year, all they want to see leaving Emirates Stadium are a string of hefty cheques, signed off by new chairman Sir Chips Keswick to fund fresh arrivals.
That, quite literally, is the bottom line. Many feel the Gunners need to re-establish themselves as serious players in the transfer market rather than slipping dangerously close to the tag of ‘selling club’.
Of course, one of the best ways to make a statement of intent is to bring a new striker to the club, preferably a big-name international star whose name will raise supporters’ spirits and expectations.
Argentinian star Gonzalo Higuain appears to fit the bill, with Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger willing to shatter the club’s record transfer fee to bring the Real Madrid man to north London.
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But it looks as if the chances of that happening may have receded since the arrival of Carlo Ancelotti at the Bernabeu, with indications that the new coach could try to keep the prolific Higuain.
Meanwhile, the spotlight has shifted to Wayne Rooney, who was due to hold discussions about his Manchester United future with new Old Trafford boss David Moyes this week.
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And, should Rooney decide not to resume his working relationship with the manager who introduced him to Premier League football more than a decade ago, it is hard to see many alternative domestic destinations for the England striker.
Rooney’s proposed switch to the Etihad Stadium a few years ago did little for his popularity on either side of the Manchester divide, while his style of play is unlikely to appeal to returning Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.
So, assuming he would prefer to stay in the UK and continue competing in the Champions League, Rooney’s only option would be to follow a rarely-trodden path and leave Old Trafford for Arsenal.
Apart from Mikael Silvestre, no player has made that move for almost 40 years, and in general the Gunners have had little tendency to raid their leading rivals for reinforcements.
Jimmy Carter never held down a regular place in the Arsenal side after his switch from Liverpool but, more recently, former Chelsea defender William Gallas had a largely successful four years at the Emirates.
However, one of the greatest stumbling blocks to a potential Rooney transfer, it would seem, is Wenger’s apparent reluctance to bid for current England internationals.
This can be traced back to 2001, when the Arsenal manager had his fingers burned by the signings of goalkeeper Richard Wright, already a full international, and highly-rated England under-21 striker Francis Jeffers.
As Gunners fans of that era will ruefully remember, neither of the pair proved to be remotely successful in their Highbury careers – and their stock continued to fall after they departed.
Since then, Wenger’s preference has been to concentrate on the market he knows best – young French players, often coming from an African background, as illustrated by the confirmation of Yaya Sanogo’s arrival this week.
But, when it comes to taking a chance on a top English player, Arsenal do have a highly successful precedent – an international striker who was 27, the same age as Rooney, when he signed for the club.
George Graham forked out £2.5m – at that time a club record – to bring Ian Wright across London from Crystal Palace in September 1991.
Six and a half years later, Wright’s tally of 185 goals had helped Arsenal to win three trophies and lay the foundations for the second double success in their history.
And, while Rooney is a different kind of forward to Wright, there is no reason to think that his arrival could not galvanise the Gunners in a similar way.
For the first time in several years, the funds appear to be in place should Rooney become available.
The question is whether United would be willing to sell him to one of their biggest rivals, and whether Wenger is minded to change his preferred policy and start looking a little closer to home.