In Defence of Wayne Rooney
For those who are familiar with my writing; you might well be surprised to see my name below the title. Let’s be blunt; I don’t like Wayne Rooney. I’ve never been much enamoured with him as a man and as a footballer I don’t feel he has progressed as he should. Despite those truths I find the circumstances of his expected departure to have cast an unwarranted shadow over an unquestionably successful Old Trafford career.
Times have changed. Football clubs, players and supporters are much different from the sport I fell in love with. The painting of ‘Wayne Rooney the baddy’ has been carefully orchestrated by the club and ably assisted by the fans. Fergie’s final act of mischief coincided with the unedifying spectacle of a player booed when receiving a Championship winners medal. The former we have become accustomed to but the latter really saddened me. On a day of celebration of a season and an era, a significant number of fans chose to voice their displeasure with an important part of the achievements they were revelling in. Wayne Rooney is the fourth highest scorer in Manchester United history. All of those goals came under Alex Ferguson. To not cheer was understandable given the immediate context, but to boo was an act of disrespect to the achievements of the entire team.
In early May I wrote a blog suggesting it might be best for Rooney too seek a new challenge and had commenters queuing up to disparage my argument and even question my allegiance to the club. Those very same critics are unlikely to be such staunch defendants of their ‘hero’ tonight. Momentum has swung to a point that even those who readily forgave his last treacherous act are in agreement that his services are no longer wanted. It is – it must be said – the perfect situation for the club. Instead of open revolt at the prospect of selling a prized asset at the peak of his career, they are being roundly congratulated with no little schadenfreude displayed at the shift in balance of power.
So why has Wayne become so reviled?
Could it be because of his morality? To dislike the man is understandable. I remain surprised that in 2010 a ill-considered rant against the England fans who insulted him drew more outrage from the masses than the reprehensible act of soliciting a prostitute whilst his wife was pregnant. United fans seem happy to draw a line between personal and professional conduct – as demonstrated by the adoration of Giggs. It could be seen as double standards to worship the adulterous Welshman whilst lambasting Rooney for similarly sinful acts.
Could it be then a lack of professionalism that so angers those who once supported him?
I’m not alone in being furious at his condition when returning after his 2012 summer. His relationship with Fergie has been marked by unexpected spells out the team where he has been punished for failing to conduct himself in a manner befitting a professional at the club. This is beyond dispute. The same can and has been said in the past of David Beckham, Bryan Robson and most famously of all George Best. Three men beloved of the United support despite their failure to curb ‘outside interests’ for the good of the club. The traditions of the club has been to support our players even when they have committed brainless acts which have left us deprived of their services for long periods of time (see Cantona, Ferdinand and Keane). In the context of being unavailable for the best part of a year, on reflection the reaction to our scouse number ten carrying a bit of summer timber was perhaps over the top.
Well then, surely it has to be greed?
In 2010 he successfully held the club to ransom and less than three years on he refuses to request the transfer we all know he wants for the sake of adding to his already considerable wealth. Nothing changes. Yet which doyen of financial fair play is Rooney trying to squeeze what he feels he is owed from? Our parasitic owners. Make no mistake, every action (or inaction) of the Glazer era has been driven by pursuit of money. The decision to cave in to Rooney and Stretford’s demands in that infamous week was can recognition of calculating that to allow him to move across town would potentially cause greater harm to the club’s ability to generate revenue. You need not plough through the annals of time to find examples of greed outweighing what would benefit on field performance. As I write this the squad are on the other side if the world, after yet another long distance flight, fulfilling meet and greets in an effort to flog brand United. Unlike the US tours we can’t even spin it as a worthwhile football exercise against fellow European giants. Our next opponents are severely weakened by the absence of Emile Heskey. Let that sink in a moment. Then consider the fact that our new manager and coach attributed their victory over United to the lack of foreign expeditions. How our new manager, looking at his intimidating early fixture list, must wish that he was spending his days familiarising himself with new players and surroundings in Manchester rather than photocalls by Sydney Harbour bridge. If we are disowning Rooney for being motivated chiefly by money, then we must be similarly scathing of our beloved club.
The current stand off is the result of one super rich, ruthless organisation seeking to cut the best possible deal for the club in the sale of one super rich individual. Both are trading unsubtle blows under the gaze of the public which does neither any credit. Once again we see a business masquerading as a sport. It has been an unfortunate subplot to my time supporting United that players who have served the club well have departed in ignominious circumstances. A case in point would be the departure of Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2006. Our number 10 had led us through the lean times, keeping us in contention through his goals alone as the weakest side of the Ferguson era struggled behind him. Yet when Ferguson – and the club – decided it was time to move him on it was conducted in a manner unbefitting a player who had given so much in a red shirt. In fact if Rooney had been a bit more clued up on his recent United history he would not have been so surprised by a surprise omission for the final home game of the season.
It could all be so simple; the player wants to leave, the club accept it would be best for all concerned. We should be acknowledging a player who has aided our clubs achievements but whose time has come to a natural end. Instead of an amicable, respectful parting of ways we instead have a messy divorce played out through media briefing. This has duly been jumped upon enthusiastically by some ‘fans’ who view football as a soap opera and Wayne Rooney as the arch villain. I won’t be sorry to see him go but nor will I celebrate the departure of a man who, on the football field at least, gave me such moments of pleasure.