Whilst no statement from Wayne Rooney has been forthcoming, The Daily Mail has today reported that the player did not hand a second transfer request in to Manchester United. The paper claims, having presumably spoken to the Rooney camp, that the player is being forced out of the club. Their version of the story suggests that Rooney really does want to stay but that Sir Alex Ferguson has now made his position at the club untenable by lying to the press and claiming Rooney has asked to leave.
Whilst this version of events seems improbable, it is not impossible. Following the fall out in 2010 it has been no secret that the relationship between the player and manager has been strained. The manager claimed he doesn’t hold grudges and several players, including Paul Scholes more recently, have supported this. Scholes refused to travel with the squad to play Arsenal in the League Cup after not being given any playing time against Liverpool. It seems unimaginable that a player like Scholes would behave in such a way and it is a source of embarrassment for him now. But Scholes, who has since claimed the manager would have been entitled to sack him for such an offence, was fined by the manager and they put the incident behind them. Still, Rooney betrayed the club in one of the worst possible ways by agreeing to join City behind our back then rubbed salt in the wounds by trying to fabricate friction with the manager as an excuse. Ferguson claimed Rooney was injured but Rooney publicly refuted this claim, saying he’d not had any problems with his ankle all season. When asked why Fergie would claim he was injured, Rooney shrugged and replied: “I don’t know.” He was of course forgetting that we had all seen Rooney icing his ankle after being subbed off with half an hour to play. Note to Paul Stretford: try harder.
So, would Fergie be entitled to hold a grudge? Probably. So the suggestion is there that after the Swansea game, when the manager claimed Rooney had asked to leave, that he was getting his revenge for 2010. He was trying to get the fans and media to turn against the player so that he would feel he had to leave. Again, whilst this isn’t impossible, it is highly improbable. Ferguson has put his pal, David Moyes, in the job. He wants him to succeed. He has repeatedly urged the fans to get behind him. Are we seriously expected to believe that Ferguson would intentionally sabotage United’s chances of success and make life much more difficult for Moyes just because three years ago Rooney handed in a transfer request?
What makes the story fairly ridiculous though is nothing to do with Ferguson. A month ago the papers reported that Rooney wanted to sign a new contract to stay at the club. A fortnight ago the papers reported that three weeks earlier Rooney had asked the club to leave. The following day, they claimed that Rooney had removed “Manchester United player” from his bio on Twitter. The fact that Rooney never had this in his bio didn’t seem to matter to the press. What does this tell us? The press’ word isn’t gospel, which is nothing new. Rooney took to his website to pen a statement though. This was his opportunity to deny the incorrect things that had been written about him. He rightly claimed that he’d never had “Manchester United player” in his bio and then denied… oh. No. He just denied the meaningless Twitter rumour but made no mention of the stories circulating that he’d asked to leave.
Had Ferguson not then gone on to confirm the player had asked to leave, surely we knew already by his refusal to deny both stories. Had Rooney ignored both stories there would certainly be more weight to today’s claims in the press, even if still fairly unbelievable, but the fact he spoke out to deny one but not the other is fairly damning.
The Mirror reports: While he admits to having clear the air talks with Ferguson, as he sought assurances about his future, Rooney remains adamant that no formal transfer request was put in. That is an official course of action in which the player puts his request in writing and waives his right to a pay-off – and Rooney maintains that has simply never happened, despite United public claims to the contrary.
Is this true? After the Swansea game, the first confirmation we had of Rooney wanting to leave was given by Ferguson. “I don’t think Wayne was keen to play simply because he has asked for a transfer,” he said. Rooney may not have handed in a written transfer request, and the club hasn’t explicitly claimed that he has either, rather that he said he wants to leave. Stretford and co. are splitting hairs, looking for any way out of this new mess they’ve created, but just like the accusation that Fergie was lying last time, they’ve got it badly wrong.
Scholes was interviewed by Gary Neville before the Swansea game and he openly talked about Rooney asking for a transfer, which suggests it’s common knowledge within the club. For the Rooney camp to think they can twist this scenario in to one that would lead people to believe the manager has fabricated Rooney’s desire to leave the club is fairly ridiculous.
So whilst it appears as though Rooney wants to leave, he’s worked out that he looks like a prick again. Handing in one transfer request is bad enough but two? Last time it was because he didn’t think we were signing good enough players. We signed players(/s) in his position who are better than him and have won the league two out of three seasons since his request. This time it’s apparently because he’s not playing as much as he would like, thanks to us signing players of the quality he demanded. “He’s not happy being taken off a couple of times this season,” Ferguson revealed. “But Rooney in top form wouldn’t have been taken off.”
So Rooney has spat his dummy out. He wanted us to sign world class players, but just not world class players in his position, and he wanted to play 90 minutes every week, regardless of how he was playing. The Guardian has reported that Rooney is earning a shocking £300k-a-week, the best paid player in the league, and he isn’t happy at having to earn his place in the team (like everyone else), so has asked to leave. Maybe he didn’t really want to leave initially. Maybe he was just saying it when he was in a strop in the hope that the club would react, just as they did last time. We bent over backwards, offered him a ridiculous contract, and were thankful he was our star player. This time the club told him he couldn’t leave and the manager continued to sub him off when he was playing badly, because Robin van Persie is our star now. It’s cut throat, something that Roy Keane has repeatedly complained about, with clubs treating the players like pieces of meat. One day you’re the hero and the next you’re replaced by someone younger or better. But you’re paid ridiculous amounts of money to do this job, one of the many perks, so you have to live with some of the drawbacks.
If Rooney isn’t prepared to work for his place in the team, ensure that he is doing everything he can to be the best player possible, then it is time for him to leave. When you consider the difference between his attitude and that of Javier Hernandez’s, it makes you wonder whether there’s any point in Moyes trying to resolve this situation. We can’t promise him to disregard poor form and play him for 90 minutes every week, not if we want to retain our trophy, so maybe he can find a club that will. Or maybe he will find a club that will pay him so much money he doesn’t give a fuck what he wins or how much he plays. And best of luck to him. But my interpretation of today’s story is damage limitation from Stretford. He’s quite happy for Rooney to leave, just as he was last time, and he would prefer it if it was under the pretence that he’s been forced out by Fergie, just like last time.
Please, just get him sold abroad, and let’s have done with this.
The RoM 2018-19 Season Preview is available for just £6. It includes an EXCLUSIVE interview with Juan Mata, a Q&A with the country's top journalists, articles by brilliant United writers, and so much more. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.