When Wayne Rooney released a statement last week denying the story that he had changed his Twitter bio to omit “Manchester United player”, you knew he wanted to leave. That week the press had also reported that Rooney had met with Sir Alex a fortnight ago to tell him he wanted to leave, but Rooney made no comment to deny that.
If confirmation was needed, Rooney’s absence from our match day squad yesterday told you everything you needed to know. He wanted off. At the end of the game, when going to receive his medal, some boos could be heard but they were in a minority compared to the cheers. “Rooney! Rooney!” the Stretford End chanted. The tune to his song was played over the PA system and the stadium joined in singing.
It was a puzzling situation. Whilst I don’t think yesterday was the time or the place for boos, it was odd that people decided to sing his song. “Don’t believe everything you read in the papers” is the common defence I’d seen on here and on Twitter over the past week, but my opinion was more down to the actions of Rooney. If he hadn’t asked to leave, he would have mentioned that, given he had time to update the world about the goings on of his bloody Twitter bio.
When United won the title back in 2009, Ferguson took to the mic as usual to make his end of season speech. However, he cut it short after being drowned out by the Stretford End chanting “Fergie, sign him up!” about Carlos Tevez. A few weeks later he was a Manchester City player and has since held up a “RIP Fergie” sign. The fans who used Fergie’s speech as an opportunity to make a plea on behalf of Tevez probably felt fairly foolish not so long afterwards.
Yesterday, I wondered how long it would take for the fans who were chanting Rooney’s name to feel daft. Not long. As I walked out of the ground I received a text. “Fergie has just confirmed Rooney wants to leave.” What a fucking surprise eh. Didn’t see that one coming.
Ferguson’s comments on Rooney were interesting. “He’s unhappy about being taken off a few times,” he said. “In top form, he wouldn’t be taken off.” Ouch.
Rooney handed in a transfer request two and a half years ago because he was worried about the club’s ability to compete for trophies. In the three seasons since then we’ve won two titles and lost out on one because of goal difference. We’ve signed the likes of Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa, who were the best players in their respective leagues the season before we bought them.
Be careful what you wish for, eh Wazza. You see, when he was trying to force a move away from the club because of a lack of quality signings, he hadn’t accounted for the fact we might buy players that would be better than him in his position. Since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, he was supposed to be the superstar, but now there were other players stealing the limelight.
So now the club have done what he wanted, he wants to leave because he doesn’t get 90 minutes every week. But as Ferguson correctly points out, if Rooney had been playing well, he would have played every game. It doesn’t paint him in the best light, for him to believe he has the God-given right to start every game for Manchester United. Who does he think he is? Well, the answer to that is he thinks he’s a lot better than he actually is.
Still, even after a poor form by his standards, Rooney has contributed well to the team. Twelve players have scored more goals than him in the league but only one player has assisted more. 22 goals and assists means he matches PFA Player of the Year nominee Juan Mata in terms of contribution to his team, and only Van Persie, Luis Suarez, Gareth Bale and Theo Walcott have more goals/assists than him. If that’s what he can do when he’s not playing well, it bodes well for what he can do when he is.
Which leads us to the next point, with Ferguson also claiming that Rooney is not for sale. The club may have every intention of selling him and, in doing so, freeing up a huge amount of dosh to pay someone who does want to play for United. Fergie can hardly say that though as clubs would come in with lower offers. The likes of PSG and Chelsea need to think we want to keep the player and they’re going to have to really stump up the cash to convince us to part ways with him.
The other alternative is that Fergie is deadly serious and that Rooney will remain a United player. Unlike 2010, we are in the position of power, and he has to do what we say. He has a contract with us and he has little choice but to honour that. If he stays and purposefully doesn’t play well, then he has no hope of attracting a bid from a decent club next summer.
We have been fortunate this season but what if next year Van Persie gets injured? What if Van Persie and Chicharito get injured? Let’s not forget the times when pretty much the whole of our defence has been wiped out, so it’s not unthinkable we could be unlucky enough to pick up several injuries in the same position. We’d be crying out for a player of Rooney’s ability then, even if he wasn’t on top form. Until this season, Rooney was a vital element in making things click on the pitch. Has he lost that ability permanently? Has he just had a bad season? Has he lost it because he’s unhappy at the club? Who knows, but if sold Rooney and were without Van Persie, we’d all be thinking ‘what if..?’.
Still, if Rooney can’t get enough playing time at United, where does he think he will be able to? Does he think the likes of Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Barcelona are going to play him more than we have? After wasting £30m on Shevchenko and £50m on Torres, both of whom had shown signs of decline before they were bought, will Chelsea step up to the plate? They’d surely be looking at paying at least £30m for him, given that he’s English and they’re a rival club.
Based on his form this year, if Rooney’s motivating factor is playing time, he will have to adjust his expectations and likely not play at one of the elite clubs in Europe. But then he would be sacrificing silverware, which is why he wanted to leave in the first place!
The biggest issue here, for me, is what it will say about us as a club if we beg him to stay again. Everyone makes mistakes and since his U-turn on the last transfer request, Rooney has repeatedly claimed that announcing he wanted to leave was the biggest mistake of his life (and he’s made a few!). Whenever he’s been asked about his future he said that he wants to stay at the club forever and that for as long as United want him he will stay. If that happens now, how are the fans meant to get behind him? Can we be happy if he changes his tune again and signs a new deal? He was largely fogiven by the match-attending fanbase for his behaviour in 2010 but can we really be expected to forgive him again? It’s just all a bit embarrassing for all those concerned. If we offered him a new deal, what exactly is he supposed to say upon signing it? “Oops, I made a mistake again, but this time I really mean it when I say I hope I see out my career here.” It’s become a bit of a joke now.
If a player doesn’t want to be here, they should leave. I’m not entirely sure what it is that Rooney is looking for, but if he can’t find it at Manchester United, he needs to go. If a player needs to be convinced twice in less than three years that United is a good place to be, then they’re probably not the kind of player we want.
So I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that a club, preferably one abroad, makes us an offer we can’t refuse, and that we can then use his transfer fee to buy somebody better. Thanks for the memories Wazza, but now please do one.