Since signing for United, Wayne Rooney has always had a brilliant relationship with our fans. Ignoring his great ability and the goals he scores for a minute, his passion and his determination to see that United win always keeps us on side. He could be having a lousy game, but he’d still got his song sung every day he sprints 20 yards to close a ball down, or is straight at a player after he loses possession. His work ethic is admirable.
For a modest lad off the pitch, who doesn’t indulge in the partying life style and prefers a night in with the missus, we have certainly seen a lot of column inches about him over the past couple of months. His brilliant form for both United and England has seen the British press cooing over him, and following yesterday’s match against Everton, we’ve seen even more written about him.
From George Best to Eric Cantona, Roy Keane to David Beckham, this country has developed an obsession with United players. Hailed as legends and heroes one minute, torn to shreds the next. Journalists have dedicated hours of them time writing about them, good or bad, whilst the general public has spent hours reading about them. Now the obsession is for Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Much has been made already of Rooney’s badge-kissing at Goodison and this over-reaction doesn’t surprise me in the least.
Here is what The Times has to say.
Just when you thought Wayne Rooney was growing up, he goes back to his roots. Surely he must have learnt to press the mute button when he returns to Goodison Park. But no; given a yellow card for a reckless challenge on Mikel Arteta, he reacted to the predictable abuse by provocatively kissing the crest on his United shirt in front of the fans at the Park End.
Am I the only one who doesn’t get what the fuss is all about? Just like Gary Neville against Liverpool, Rooney is involving the fans in the game. Any interaction with those on the pitch is something I enjoy. The weekly chants of “Fergie, give us a wave” are met with loud cheers every time the manager acknowledges us. In the last home game of the season last year, Rio Ferdinand and Carlos Tevez did the same. I love it.
Now whilst I would react to Steven Gerrard kissing the Liverpool badge in front of the Stretford End, it would still be something I enjoyed. The season before last when Ashley Cole turned to the fans and mimed putting his hand in his back pocket, claiming that is where he’d kept Ronaldo all game, following chants calling him a wanker, the Stretford End went wild. It was great!
This back and forth banter, with the crowd actually having a role to play against World-famous footballers, is fun. You couldn’t provoke a reaction from a player from your armchair in front of the telly, but at the grounds, you get to interact with the players.
So Rooney kissed our badge and it provoked a reaction from the Everton fans. That’s funny, not shameful.
As a kid, representing Everton at youth level, he flashed a shirt which read ‘Once a blue, always a blue’ and has been reminded of this every time he returns to Goodison Park. At 18-years-old he offered the opportunity to sign for Manchester United, his boyhood club were to profit £30 million from his sale, and he would have the chance to win the best trophies on offer, something he wouldn’t have got at Everton. Four years later, he has two league titles and a European Cup winners medal to show for it, to vindicate his decision to leave Merseyside.
He could have done an Alan Shearer, given up on winning the top prizes to play for his boyhood team, however the difference is at least Shearer had already won the league before retiring up to Newcastle. Whilst admirable to do such, why should Rooney have been expected to stay at Everton? His relationship with the manager, David Moyes, had broken down for starters. He was a kid and didn’t want to play for Moyes anymore. You remember those dick head teachers at school, back when you were a teenager, right? It’s only as you grow up you start to think the bollockings you received for not handing in your homework were not through that teacher being a monster, rather wanting the best for you.
“Looking back, I’m sure Moyesy was doing what he thought was best for me and the club,” Rooney wrote in his autobiography. “I was probably a bit impatient, being so young and inexperienced.”
The Everton fans who truly appreciated Rooney, who admired everything he gave to them, in terms of commitment on the pitch as well as the massive transfer fee, are happy to see this. One of their own has gone off and made it to the big time, which is something that should fill them with pride, not resentment. The Everton fans who are honest with themselves must have known from the moment he scored that belter against Arsenal that he wasn’t going to be there for much longer. It is a shame for the reputation of the club that there are so many fans who can’t think that way.
When United travelled to Goodison Park for an FA Cup game in Rooney’s first season with his new club, the fans abused their former hero all match. They became so worked up they resorted to throwing things on to the field at our players, one of these missiles hit our keeper, Roy Carroll on the head. After the match, 30 of their fans were arrested.
“Die, die, Rooney, Rooney, die!” they sing, to ‘She’ll be coming round the moutain’, and have done since the moment he left. If he wants to respond to these fans by kissing our badge, then what is the big deal? He must enjoy the fact that such a simple gesture can get under their skin so much. For fans that hate him, they certainly are awfully concerned over where his allegiances now lie.
Whatever happens on the pitch or whatever he says, Everton FC will always be massively important to Rooney. Had all fans taken the sensible approach to his leaving, there would be no feud these days. Rooney is simply responding to the hatred and vile abuse that comes his way every time he plays against his former team. I’m sure he isn’t best pleased that his mum and dad sit amongst fans wearing their colours, singing about their son dying. So, what does he do? Fights fire with fire. I, for one, enjoy it.
I enjoyed his piss-taking at Everton the season before last and I liked him winding up Arsenal last season. It’s funny. Maybe that says a lot about my immature sense of humour, but that’s how it is. I like that we have a player with personality who can get under the skin of our opposition.
So, following his antics yesterday, Rooney has confirmed he intends on staying at United forever, which will be warmly received by our fans. Of course, players making these statements of intent regularly, and in a day when football is ruled by money, you learn to take their comments with a pinch of salt, yet there is something entirely more believable about Rooney’s statement.
When asked about his future, Rooney responded, “come on, can you ever see me playing for a foreign team? I love England, I love being close to my family.”
The North generally means a lot to Northerners, in contrast to Southerners who don’t tend to feel the same pride of their origins (unless quoting you a London postcode, as if it means anything to you). Rooney wants to stay up North and he wants to stay with Manchester United.
“To be honest I don’t even like going down to London,” he added. “I am not comfortable there. I’m a northern lad and I’d like to think I could stay here for the rest of my career. The fans here at United appreciate players who give their all for the team and that’s what I try to do – and that’s all I want to do.”
Now, as much as Rooney clearly enjoys playing for United, as great as the relationship with our fans is, the reason why it is more likely Rooney means what he says about staying is that he doesn’t have the same desires a lot of other footballers have. Whilst of course he wants success and to play amongst great players, he doesn’t feel the pull of London or the big money abroad. He likes his home comforts, he likes being up North, so essentially, what reason would he ever have for leaving United? If the Glazer bomb blows up, then understandably he’ll be off, but that wouldn’t make him Judas and I wouldn’t wish death upon him! However, as things stand, there’s no reason for him to leave our club, and there’s no other player in the World I’d like more to hear saying they want to see out their career with United than Wayne Rooney.