A couple of months ago stories started circulating in the papers that Wayne Rooney wanted to leave Manchester United. The claim was he was fed up with being subbed off and not starting every game. You had to laugh, given that the last time Rooney wanted to leave it was because he didn’t think the squad was good enough. We’ve signed the likes of Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa, meaning that Rooney is no longer guaranteed a place in the team, and so now he wants to leave again.
Following these initial stories, several newspapers claimed that Rooney had changed his Twitter bio to exclude “Manchester United player” and instead just referred to himself as a “Nike athlete”. It turned out this was nonsense, shoddy journalism, and Rooney quickly took to his website to confirm that his bio never mentioned United and that the change had been under the instruction of Nike, as it had been with the likes of Tom Cleverley and Phil Neville whose bios also changed to include “Nike athlete”.
Rooney was so angry about and adamant that the journalists were wrong with their Twitter story that he felt he needed to make an official announcement to deny it. In this statement, he made no mention of the stories claiming he wanted to leave the club and certainly did not deny them.
For Sir Alex Ferguson’s last home game in charge of United, with us set to lift the Premier League trophy, Rooney was left out of the match day squad. After the game, our former manager explained Rooney’s absence. “I don’t think Wayne was keen to play simply because he’s asked for a transfer,” he said. “I think he wanted to think that through in his mind and it’s maybe a good idea. We aren’t going to let him go. He should go away and think it over. He’s not happy being taken off a couple of times this season, but Rooney in top form wouldn’t have been taken off.”
Rooney hadn’t (and still hasn’t) denied the stories that he wanted to leave and Ferguson confirmed that they were true. Just as Ferguson outsmarted Paul Stretford and co. last time Rooney tried to leave the club, he beat them again, totally taking them by surprise, and putting the ball in their court.
When Rooney asked to leave in 2010, he had the whole world at his feet and his choice of clubs to move to. He was 24-years-old, ready to hit his peak and had just 18 months remaining on his deal. Bizarrely, the club he (and Stretford) chose was Manchester City. However, following the blinder Fergie played in the press conference, Rooney’s image and reputation was seriously at risk. How could any player claim they wanted to leave Manchester United to win trophies? Ridiculous. He was being exposed as a money-grabbing mercenary and the Rooney camp had to change direction pronto, meaning he was offered a contract that reportedly made him the best paid in the country to stay at United and win stuff, which he has.
Less than three years later, Rooney is in a very different position. Whilst Stretford no doubt had plans this summer to try and get a bigger contract for Rooney elsewhere and a huge slice of it for himself (when negotiating the transfer, Chelsea paid Eden Hazard’s agent what we paid to buy Javier Hernandez, £6m), the pressure is really on them. Some stories this week claim that Carlo Ancelotti, as manager of Real Madrid, would be interested in Rooney. Arsenal have been the most vocal and public about their admiration and desire to sign him. Mourinho has told Rooney to do whatever makes him happy. There has reportedly been some interest from Monaco and PSG. At this stage though, there doesn’t seem to be an awful lot of excitement about the prospect of signing Rooney, North London aside, leaving a fairly anti-climatic position for the striker and his advisers.
However, after Ferguson landed Rooney in it with his surprise confession, the player has been keen to ensure he doesn’t burn his bridges at United entirely. The Mirror has been the voice of the Rooney camp since the beginning of this mess, with them repeatedly claiming that Rooney did NOT hand in a written transfer request.
Who said Rooney did hand in a transfer request? Not Ferguson, not the club, not any newspaper.
This tactic of repeatedly trying to argue that Ferguson has done something underhand here, that he has lied about Rooney’s actions and that player is now being made a “scapegoat” is ridiculous, and has obviously come from Paul Stretford.
Take this morning’s article by Steve Bates:
The England star feels betrayed by Ferguson who, after his Old Trafford farewell against Swansea last month, announced publicly Rooney had asked for a move.
I understand that United accept that the England star did not hand in a transfer request – and that could clear the way for a kiss-and-make-up that will keep him in Manchester.
For Rooney to have formally asked to go he would have had to put his request in writing – a move which would have meant giving up a percentage of the transfer fee – and no such letter was ever drafted.
But United will have to make a public climbdown if they want to keep the 27-year-old striker, who is adamant he won’t be made a scapegoat.
Rooney’s camp are still fuming at Ferguson’s public outburst. And the backlash from United fans since Fergie’s claims has only hardened Rooney’s resolve to set the record straight.
Does it matter either way? Whether Rooney told Ferguson he wanted to leave or whether he wrote down on a piece of paper that he wanted to leave, does it change the opinion of the fans? If Rooney said it, rather than wrote it, does that mean he is any more entitled to an apology from the club for Ferguson’s “OUTBURST” revealing Rooney wanted off? Out of interest, is Rooney asking for an apology for Paul Scholes’ earlier “OUTBURST” when he too revealed that Rooney had asked to leave, when being interviewed by Gary Neville about his retirement, before the Swansea game?
Let’s get it straight. Rooney isn’t being made a “scapegoat” by the club. Whilst I think it’s fairly amusing that Fergie stuck the knife in Rooney, possibly as pay back for him dicking the club around in October 2010, it’s ridiculous to suggest that it was a total fabrication. Repeatedly claiming that Rooney didn’t hand in a formal transfer request doesn’t make what Ferguson said any less true. Rooney asked to leave, Ferguson confirmed it, and now Rooney is shitting himself because no offers have come in for him. Whether his request was written formally on paper or given verbally is neither here nor there, and the suggestion from The Mirror that the club need to make a “public climbdown” is an obvious attempt at trying to con people, United fans, that anyone other than Rooney has done something wrong here.
I genuinely won’t be surprised if Rooney is a United player next season, more so because clubs outside of England haven’t paid anywhere near the sort of attention to him that Stretford would have been hoping for, and United will not be willing to ship him off to Chelsea and help their title challenge with his best bud Ashley Cole. But the notion that Rooney is owed an apology and the belief that anything he could do now would mend the shattered relationship with the fans is ludicrous. Indifference is the best that Rooney can hope for now.