Finally, the words I have been waiting for before I wrote about the events of Saturday, have been released by Wayne Rooney. ”I want to say absolutely categorically that I did not intentionally put my foot down on Ricardo Carvalho. When the referee produced the red card I was amazed – gobsmacked.” When the final whistle blew on Saturday, I had a mixture of emotions, but I was angry more than disappointed. Angry that a group of players, who are so capable, so talented, put so little effort in to the World Cup, and for some of them, it is, or could be their last. The biggest disappointments for me were Gerrard and Lampard, supposedly the best player in the Premiership last season, and the second best player in the World, who will be 30 and 32 respectively, by 2010. When Lampard had the chance to redeem his status as England’s worst performer of the tournament, and tapped the ball slightly to the left of the keeper, at perfect height, Gerrard winced, before leaning on Rio’s shoulder. The pressure was on him now, and unfortunately for England, that was too much for him to take, with a penalty that almost mirrored Lampard’s.
That evening, I looked at a few of the mornings headline online, just to see what had been made of the Cup exit. “10 heroic lions, 1 stupid little boy” was the first one I came across. Until this point, I hadn’t really considered that people could actually put the blame on Rooney for England’s World Cup exit. Wayne Rooney, the man whose name has been mentioned more than any other England player in the lead up, hailed as our hero, and the nation’s chance in this competition, was now suddenly the villain. At no point have I doubted that Rooney was off balance and trying to stand up, and if the red card was for “the stamp” (which would be more accurately described as “a step”), then it was completely unwarranted. I don’t think a purposeful stamp is something out of Rooney’s capabilities, if I’m honest, but for Rooney to do that, he would have had to have lost it, like he does. That switch would have been flicked, and he would have STAMPED. You would not need slow motion replays to decide over whether it was intentionally or not. It’s clear he hasn’t lost it at this point… that doesn’t happen until Ronaldo gets involved.
“I bear no ill feeling to Cristiano but am disappointed that he chose to get involved,” he has said today, which I think is fair comment. I don’t want to get too deeply in to whether I hate Ronaldo for his actions, or whether I don’t see a big problem, because that’s an issue reds are so divided on that it serves no purpose to try and bring you around to my way of thinking. But I do think we have to consider how Rooney would have behaved if the tables were turned, and Rooney felt that he’d seen Ronaldo purposefully stand on Terry’s nuts. He may have not been the first person talking to the ref, just as Ronaldo wasn’t, but would he have joined Lampard, Gerrard, Joe and Ashley Cole in their complaints? Would he have stood back, arms folded, refusing to get involved in what he felt like was an injustice against his England team mate? What would the English press have said of him if he did? That he was siding with his Portuguese United team mate over his English one, whilst representing his country in the World Cup? “I suppose I do though have to remember that on that particular occasion we were not team-mates.” And we should remember that too.
There has been plenty of talk of how there has been a rift between the players, and how now Ronaldo was off to Real Madrid. Even though Ronaldo has denied the Real rumours on two separate occasions, and both players have said they have no bad feelings, there will still be talk about it in the trashy tabloids from now until the season starts. When there was no denial, the fans claimed the tabloids were right… and when there is a denial, they’re not believed. Go figure.
The question still remains of these players reputations though, and the treatment of two young reds, who are barely out of their teenage years. We’ve yet to see the response of the all press and know-it-all-has-beeens, and whether they will continue to be used as an excuse for the fact 3/4 of our penalty takers can’t hardly trouble the keeper, and an otherwise dismal, disappointing performance throughout the tournament. One thing is for certain though, the fewer people like Gerrard who get on their high horse to fan the flames, the better. Only a moron could think that Ronaldo’s actions “summed him up as a person”, and that if one of his team mates did it, he’d be absolutely disgusted. He said the same thing about his team mates and diving a few months ago, only to dive against Bolton that weekend, and then most recently, in the friendly the week preceding the World Cup. I also didn’t see him condemning Crouch, or saying that he was summed up as a person by ripping out that T&T defenders striker before scoring. Weird eh? Condemn Ronaldo and maybe that way people will forget he missed a penalty? But not only him as a loud mouth, but Sir Bobby Robson demanding an apology from Wayne. Do they honestly think these kind of comments will do anything but create more animosity and trouble?
But at the moment, this is something everybody has an opinion on, and even though the debate hasn’t even been going for two days yet, a lot of people are already sick of it. No proper reds have ever admired the other side of Ronaldo’s game, the whining, bratty side. Although his diving has decreased whilst wearing a red rather dramatically, he still throws too many strops for my liking. But I don’t think I’m alone in being relieved to hear that this situation was just wishful thinking by the media, and many people in England, because now more than ever, United can’t afford to get rid of one of our brightest prospects, with a central midfield, and possibly a striker to replace!
However, it’s not an international tournament if we’re not having a scapegoat made out of one of our players. On this occasion though, unlike with Beckham in 1998, I think Rooney’s criticism is undeserved. The ref said he gave the red card for “the stamp”, and so regardless of the incident with Ronaldo that followed, the ref made the wrong decision. Some might call me naïve, but I honestly don’t believe Rooney would go on the telly and absolutely categorically deny something he actually did do. He has more honour than that. It was his honour that got him in to the situation in the first place. “If anything, I feel we should have had a free kick for the fouls committed on me during the same incident. From what I’ve seen in the World Cup, most players would have gone to ground at the slightest contact but my only thought then was to keep possession for England,” he said.
So roll on August, and I for one, hope, and am confident, Rooney and Ronaldo will both be in our lineup.