If David Moyes has any sense, he’ll have written a to-do list for his first day at Old Trafford and it will read like this:
1. Locate teabags and kettle
2. Remove biscuit barrel privileges from Anderson
3. Release a bedraggled and unkempt Cuneyt Cakir from hitherto unknown Old Trafford dungeon.
4. Sell Wayne Rooney
A fully armed and operational Rooney is a potent weapon indeed. He is a dynamic and pugnacious forward, a bewigged Scrappy-Doo capable of seizing a game by the scruff of the neck, accidentally throttling it and then eating the corpse to dispose of the evidence. Who doesn’t want to see that in their own player, eh?
Unfortunately, he seems more susceptible to bouts of poor form than any other footballer in the Premier League. Everything upsets Rooney. Nasty, but impeccably sourced, newspaper stories can blow him off course for months. Problems at home soon become problems on the pitch. The sight of a pigeon eating discarded fried chicken once traumatised Rooney, pushing him into an existential whirlpool that robbed him of his first touch just before a crucial Carling Cup tie. That last one might not be true.
The problem for Moyes is that Rooney’s problems quickly become everyone’s problems. He can’t just be dropped, he has to be ‘controversially’ dropped. No-one aims a camera at Michael Carrick’s face for 90 minutes when he’s sat in the stands with his family. When Rooney’s there, we all become cod-psychologists and analyse his every expression. Look, he smiled! That means he doesn’t care!
If Moyes decides to keep him, he’ll be signing himself up for another year of pogo-sticking across a minefield. At some point he’ll have to drop him, perhaps after watching in horror for an hour as he repeatedly traps the ball like a man wearing Toblerone boxes for shoes, and the whole cycle will begin again. Moyes doesn’t need that and, for the moment, Rooney isn’t playing well enough to justify the risk. And are his motivations really sound?
Much has been made of the leap between Rooney’s 2010 demand to leave because his team-mates weren’t good enough and Rooney’s 2013 demand to leave because his team-mates were so good that he couldn’t get a game. Perhaps there is a different interpretation that can be made; that Rooney and his entourage never really cared about the standard of his team-mates, but cynically played on the anti-Glazer sentiment of the supporters in an effort to secure a pay-rise.
Is he an idiot who should have been more careful what he wished for? Is he a nasty piece of work who took the supporters for a ride? Who knows? Moyes brought Rooney through the youth ranks and blooded him in the first team, but it’s been nine years since he worked with him on a daily basis. Does he have the time or the inclination to hang around and find out what his protégé has turned into?
No-one’s bigger than Manchester United, least of all a misfiring stocky striker with a penchant for a flounce. Moyes has Robin Van Persie, Javier Hernandez, Danny Welbeck and the precocious talents of Angelo Henriquez. If he sells Rooney, he’ll also have £25m and a hefty chunk of the wage bill with which he can snaffle some reinforcements.
This question, like its subject, is a no-brainer.
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