Former Manchester United icon Wayne Rooney has offered his view on several key talking points in an extensive interview with The Athletic’s David Ornstein.
Rooney, who notched 253 goals across 559 appearances for United during 13 memorable years at Old Trafford, has been watching his ex-team’s decline from afar in recent years.
Since his departure in 2017, the Red Devils had gone six years without a trophy before Erik ten Hag broke that drought in February, leading his side to Carabao Cup glory.
Despite a 2-1 heartache in June’s FA Cup showpiece against cross-city rivals Manchester City, the Dutchman’s first season at the Theatre of Dreams was successful.
In addition to lifting the aforementioned League Cup crown, the former Ajax manager guided Man Utd back into the Champions League group stage following a season-long absence.
Several high-profile signings administered by the 53-year-old during his first summer transfer window played a pivotal role in United’s resurgence.
Rooney believes those were the steps in the right direction, praising Ten Hag’s market choices and the team’s overall effort to challenge all-conquering Man City for Premier League supremacy.
“There were huge improvements,” he said. “Some really good signings and some good experienced players who helped the team.
“They’re competing with one of the best teams, probably, of all time in Man City. United are trying to get back challenging for the league title, and I do believe they’re on the right path.
“There is a lot of work to be done, but they are taking the right steps to do it.”
Rooney also took stock of a never-ending takeover saga, calling for the infamous Man United owners to step down and let a new administration take care of the club’s renaissance.
The 37-year-old gave the Glazers credit for their past achievements but emphasised the significance of an immediate change, as it is in United’s best interest.
“They have been very successful,” he continued. “But it has probably got to a place where the fans really want a change.
“They want to maybe go in a different direction. It needs that excitement back, not just for the first team but to develop the academy and behind the scenes.
“I’m sure they will get the credit they deserve for the job they have done, but also they’re going to get the negativity from fans who never seem to acknowledge what they’ve done for the club.
“I’m sure it will be split, but I think a change is needed.”
Following a superb individual campaign, marquee forward Marcus Rashford penned a five-year contract extension at Old Trafford on Tuesday.
Rooney shared the dressing room with the prodigious Englishman towards the final stretch of his Man United career, and he sees the homegrown United star as leadership material.
“He is one of the parts of the jigsaw but also someone who could be the main man, the main player for Manchester United,” Rooney said.
“He had a fantastic season. The challenge for Marcus now is to do it for the next five, six, seven years and really take his legacy to a new level.
“Because he is a player who could quite easily go and break my goalscoring record.”
Rashford was almost single-handedly shouldering the scoring burden for Ten Hag’s side in 2022/23, creating an urge to sign a new centre-forward to help the England international next season.
Tottenham Hotspur superstar Harry Kane has been on Man United’s shortlist for quite some time now, but Spurs chairman Daniel Levy has no intention of doing business with the Red Devils.
However, Rooney thinks the 29-year-old would be a top-notch signing for United if they can convince the English businessman to let his sought-after striker swap allegiances.
“I thought it was time to go last season and he stayed,” he said.
“Harry’s probably feeling that and knows there are trophies out there for him to win. He has done everything he can for that to try and be at Tottenham.
“Now probably is right for him to move on and it looks like he’s ready for that as well, but we know Tottenham can be quite difficult at times.”
And then, there’s a strange case of Harry Maguire, a player that joined Man United in a record-breaking £80 million deal in 2019 and earned the captain’s armband soon after.
Little did United know the former Leicester City defender would turn into a subject of mockery a couple of years later, only for ten Hag to strip him of the captaincy at the end of last season.
Rooney urged Maguire to consider following in the footsteps of his former United comrade David de Gea, who called time on his 12-year stint at Old Trafford at the end of June.
“To have the armband taken off you, how does he move forward with the club?” said Rooney. “That shows the manager really doesn’t believe in him.
“It leaves Harry in a position where he has to think about what he does moving forward. The manager has shown he is not part of the plans.
“I’m sure Harry will want to go and play — for himself, for his England career — to put himself in the best position to be as successful as he can. The best thing now is probably for him to move.”