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Wayne Rooney says he won’t leave Manchester United for China this season. Can he solidify his legacy before he exits?

Rooney only delayed the inevitable with his announcement on Thursday. Now he has three months to do something great.

Manchester United v Hull City - Premier League Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

Fairly useful backup Wayne Rooney has declined offers of ridiculous sums of money from Chinese clubs, at least for three months. The current Manchester United captain has announced that he will finish this season with the club.

Rooney’s agent went to China this week to discuss potential moves, but apparently Team Rooney wasn’t impressed enough by what they were being offered to leave Manchester midseason. Rumors have swirled about Chinese clubs being willing to more than double Rooney’s salary, putting it in line with Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and new CSL star Carlos Tevez.

It’s been a tough season for Rooney, who has been relegated to bench duty. Having apparently learned something from his fallout with big stars at Chelsea, Jose Mourinho picked the United captain in the starting XI to start the season and continued to play him until it was very clear that a half-dozen attacking players were in better form than he was, and he could have no arguments about being treated unfairly if benched.

Since then, Rooney has gotten plenty of spot starts, has been first choice in cups and Europa League, and is often the first player off the bench. He’s remained professional and supportive of the team all season, even though he’s clearly frustrated about not being a key player anymore.

But at the same time, Rooney has plenty of reason to stay. As captain of United, in his 13th season with the team, he probably cares about the club’s fortunes. They have a cup final this weekend, they’re still in the FA Cup and Europa League, and they’re fighting to get back into the top four. Rooney would probably like to help the team to one last big success or two before he departs. He probably cares about his legacy and would like to go out by finishing a season in which he wins a trophy, not by ducking out midseason to collect a big paycheck.

Rooney is also not a man with money concerns. For mid-level pros, the difference between their very good European club salaries and a top CSL salary could provide significant lifestyle changes for their extended family. Rooney has been one of the highest paid players in the world for the last seven years and his wife is a millionaire several times over from her own career. The paycheck probably hasn’t tempted him as much as it’s tempted the other players who have made the jump to China.

United has no reason to shove him out the door either. The most obvious reason is showing respect for a club captain and legend, but a less cynical reason is that they can’t sign new players until the summer and they might need bodies. Trying to do well in four competitions is hard. United’s primary strikers are 35-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic and 19-year-old Marcus Rashford. An injury to the former and a bad run of form for the latter wouldn’t be surprising.

Rooney was also a Mourinho favorite in his prime for his versatility. He can play up front by himself, as a second striker, as an attacking midfielder or even as a central midfielder in emergency or all-out attacking situations. He’s not great at any of those positions anymore, but he’s serviceable in all of them, and a player who can do that will always be a useful thing for any team to have.

There’s no reason to sugarcoat Rooney’s situation: he’s not good enough for Manchester United anymore, he won’t become good enough for Manchester United again, and his contract is an albatross for them. But if he can make some positive contributions to a trophy win and a top-four finish for United this season, he’ll get to feel like his career with the club ended on a positive note. Fans will remember him fondly. The club can get out of the final two years of his deal without looking like jerks.

Then, Rooney can leave for whatever he wants to do next. It’ll be good for all parties. And from now until then, he has a chance to do something great before he goes.