Jose Mourinho has used the word “ethical”, in relation to Chelsea’s behaviour when bidding for our player, every time he has been asked about the Wayne Rooney situation.
Of course, Mourinho has been anything but ethical, particularly when confirming that Chelsea will be making another bid for the player after Monday’s game. That is essentially saying to Rooney that he could play and score against his future club.
Thankfully, from a title winning perspective, United are set to shun any future bids from Chelsea. However, the club are reportedly “furious” at Mourinho’s attempts to unsettle the player.
Whilst there are still some Rooney defenders, preferring to believe that Sir Alex Ferguson invented Rooney’s wish to leave the club and who somehow don’t find any guilt in the player’s silence over the past three months, the truth is Rooney is keen to play for Chelsea.
Their performance against Villa at home earlier this week, relying an offside goal from Ivanovic to win the game, after he should have been sent off, as well as the apparent blindness of the referee to John Terry batting the ball out of the way with his hand in the box, suggests Mourinho hasn’t managed to get everything running as smoothly as he would like just yet. United, in contrast, had a much better start in a more difficult fixture at Swansea, comfortably winning thanks to two goals a piece from Danny Welbeck and Robin van Persie.
However, with Rooney starting the game on the bench, having hardly played this summer, when he did come on he made a big difference. Whilst the third goal was all about Van Persie’s individual brilliance, it was Rooney’s first touch pass on the turn that set the Dutchman up. Whilst the fourth goal was all about Welbeck’s perfectly timed run and delightful chip, it was Rooney who played in an inch-perfect ball to allow the Longsight lad to show what he is capable of.
Whatever you may think of Rooney, whether you were the sort who would have stood in the away end chanting his name or the sort who would boo him, there’s no denying that he is one of our better players. Whilst an unhappy Rooney could damage our team, he would certainly do more damage at Chelsea, who are in desperate need of someone like Wayne. They’ve scored four goals this season and none of them have been by a striker. Our third choice striker, Javier Hernandez, is better than any at Chelsea, whilst Welbeck certainly will give them a run for their money (even if not on last season’s form).
In 2012-2013, Rooney was off the boil, but he was still easily one of the most effective players in the league, with his 22 goals and assists equalling Juan Mata’s tally. So if Rooney isn’t that up for it this season, if he doesn’t want to play for United and is miserable playing for Moyes, he’ll still serve a purpose, particularly ahead of the World Cup next summer.
With that in mind then, should Rooney start Monday’s game against Chelsea at the expense of Welbeck?
“Wayne has got a good chance of playing,” Moyes said yesterday. “He’s got a good chance of playing against Chelsea, a good chance of starting.”
To leave Rooney out of the team would be allow Mourinho to get exactly what he wanted, one of our most dangerous players not posing any threat to them, which would be scandalous. At the same time, if Rooney’s head is not in the game, if he’s unable to cope with the pressures of playing against Mourinho’s Chelsea, wondering whether he will sign for them before the window closes, then is he going to be any use to us?
Whether in the starting line-up or subbed on, you can almost guarantee that the Chelsea fans will cheer his name. “We’ll see you next week, we’ll see you next week, Wayne Rooney, we’ll see you next week” is the chant you might hear, just as Victor Moses did when playing against Chelsea for Wigan last season before signing for them. It is well documented how Rooney struggles to perform when faced with off field drama and you have to wonder how he’ll react to Mourinho’s comments and the behaviour of the away fans. He is rarely able to manage the emotion of playing against Everton and come away with a good performance, and you wonder if it will be the same on Monday.
But then Rooney’s scored six goals in the past three seasons against Chelsea and if he’s resigned to the fact the club won’t be selling him, he’s got to know there would be no better way to get the United fans off his back than by scoring against Mourinho’s men. Fans are fickle, and whilst plenty won’t ever take to Rooney the way they did before again, he can certainly mend a few bridges by wrapping up three points for us on Monday night.
We don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes though, so you have to presume that if Moyes puts Rooney in the starting line-up, it’s because he believes he’s the best man for the job. But you can’t ignore what a kick in the teeth it will be for Welbeck, who on merit alone deserves a starting place, without even considering how much more this club means to him than it does Rooney.
Watch this space…