"I could fully understand it if Rooney fancied a new challenge and wanted to go abroad to play before he retired," said Atkinson to the Sunday Mirror.
"He has been at United for a long time and had a lot of success, so a switch to the Continent may well appeal to him at this stage of his career.
"I don't know how much of an issue money would be, if at all, but another thought is that further down the line he could finish playing at the sharp end and be another Paul Scholes. If he's happy to stay at United, that could be a future role for him.
"One way or another he still has a lot more to offer, not only for United, but also, of course, for England.
"I firmly believe he is the best we've had in that category since Alan Shearer."
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