Things seemed to go from bad to worse for United fans back in 2005. It was a bit of a wake up call for fans who just assumed success and glory would come their way every season.
This was the year we didn’t make it out of the group stages in Europe. It was ridiculous. We’d dropped stupid points and played poorly on too many occasions.
One of the biggest ‘head in hands’ moments came against Villarreal though, the team we will take on again tomorrow.
Wayne Rooney was sent off by that limelight seeking referee, Kim Milton Nielsen, the same man who sent off David Beckham in the 1998 World Cup. United should have been awarded a freekick, but Nielsen waved play on. Rooney then went in hard on a challenge, giving away a freekick cynically, but was booked thanks to a theatrical reaction Quique Alvarez.
Rooney was furious. Our man had just been fouled and nothing had been given. Yet when they are fouled, we are booked for it.
Still a teenager then, Rooney reacted, sarcastically applauding the referee’s poor decision making. Nielsen couldn’t believe his luck, thrusting the red card in Rooney’s face. As frustrated as we were with the referee, essentially, our young forward had been stupid. We couldn’t afford to go down to ten men, we needed to win! However, we had to settle for a 0-0 draw away from home.
“Wayne reacts to what he considers are injustices,” said Ferguson at the time. “He felt it was a wrongful booking but the fact is you can’t applaud a referee like that. I thought it [the second yellow card] was for putting an arm on the referee but apparently not so he’s given himself no chance whatsoever – not with that referee.”
Has Rooney matured and changed in the three years since then? Well, to be honest, I wouldn’t be massively surprised to see Wayne applauding a referee for a crap decision again, but it seems Rooney thinks he’s learnt a lot since then.
“It was a reality check for me,” Rooney said ahead of tomorrow’s game. “It was a ridiculous thing to do. When I was in the dressing room when I got sent off I was just thinking ‘Why have I just done that?’ I learned from that. I made sure I did. It was a big turning point. You don’t want to be in the dressing room wondering what you could be doing for the team if you were still out there.”
Do you think that sending off was a ‘turning point’ for Rooney?