Ahead of kick-off, when the team sheet is read out, the loudest cheer is always heard for “number ten, Wayne Rooney.” Our best player, United’s top scorer from last season, the player that exhibits so much passion and displays a genuine love for the club with his performances on the pitch and comments off it.
A few weeks ago, this image of Rooney was totally shattered. For those who were able to dismiss his JT style indiscretions off the pitch, there was no over-looking what he was now doing to the club. Just a couple of months in to the season he released a statement which was like a knife through the heart for our fans. With just over a year and a half remaining on his current deal, he confirmed that he wouldn’t be signing a new contract, that David Gill hadn’t reassured him about the ambition of the club and that he was worried he wouldn’t be winning enough trophies.
It’s only what the fans have been saying, some reds claim, so Rooney was entitled to voice his opinion. But fans also say Ji-Sung Park is shit, that Michael Carrick last resembled something like a United player over a year ago and that Dimitar Berbatov is a waste of money. Should Rooney be the voice of the fans in his next post-match conference? “We played pretty well today, deserved the win, but that Park, Christ almighty, does he know he’s supposed to be passing the ball to the players in red? Dreadful wasn’t he? And don’t get me started on Berbaflop…”
Rooney said what he said purely for his own sake, to give himself an excuse for getting out of the club and to double his money at Manchester City. You think he was fighting the Glazers for us? Draping himself in a green and gold scarf, sacrificing himself as a United player for the sake of a secure future for the club without him? Do me a favour.
Just a few weeks before we had watched him limp off the pitch against Bolton after an hour and start icing his ankle, showing signs of the injury he’s clearly been carrying since March. Yet when asked by the press, he claimed he had never been injured, implying that the Ferguson had been lying about his injury, and gave the press exactly what they wanted, news of an apparent rift between player and manager.
Not that I’m suggesting he was the mastermind behind it, with the more sensible conclusion that this was Paul Stretford’s handiwork, but his behaviour was calculated. Knowing what a hit Camp Rooney had suffered following the prostitute stories, they certainly didn’t want him to be exposed as a mercenary, not playing for the love of the game like his image had always portrayed, but for the money. So they constructed a falling out with the manager and tried to tap in to the sympathy of the fans by using the Glazers. Job done, right?
But in Rooney’s first season with United, we won the nothing and finished 3rd, 18 points behind champions Chelsea. In his second season, we won the League Cup and finished 2nd, 8 points behind champions Chelsea. Yet we’re expected to believe that now winning the League Cup and finishing 2nd, 1 point behind Chelsea, is no longer good enough for him?
The thing is, Rooney had been talking about ambition less than a year earlier, although that was his ambition to get as many Manchester United appearances as Ryan Giggs and see out his career with the club.
“The number of games Giggsy has played is unbelievable and if I can get anywhere near that, I’d be delighted,” he said in November 2009. “I have always said I would love to end my career here and if I could emulate what Giggsy has done at this club it would be an amazing achievement.”
It’s a sad business all of this but with a new deal now having been signed, we have to look to the future.
Having scored just one goal this season, a penalty, Rooney has got a lot to do when he returns. In the 9 league games we’ve played without him season, we’ve scored 15 goals. In fact, our issue so far has been our defence, with stupid mistakes preventing us from being top of the table. With Nani grabbing an assist pretty much every game, Berbatov the 2nd highest scorer in the league, Javier Hernandez looking a steal at £10m, we really are just a couple of stupid mistakes off the top.
So, Rooney can return at the weekend to play against Wigan, a side he has scored 9 goals against since joining United, help us go top of the table and win his place back in our hearts, right?
Chelsea have lost 2 of their last 3 in the league and we’re just 3 points off the top. Rooney must be made up. If he can play anything like he did last season and Chelsea continue like they are, we’ll be top before long.
Football fans are fickle and the venom spat in his direction will quickly be mopped away if he starts scoring for fun. The anger from most will subside and his name will be heard sung in the ground again.
Still, it will be interesting to see how his name being read out on the team sheet will be greeted with this time. Hopefully no and unlikely not to be boos, but the rapturous idolising he became accustomed to is a thing of the past.