In this envious, celebrity-obsessed society of ours, Wayne Rooney is an easy target. Looking down our nose at the superstar’s every dysfunctional move is just too much fun.
The Manchester United and England striker’s unusual bedroom antics and social vices haven’t sat comfortably with the public at large, while those who prefer focusing on the game itself gravitate towards his perceived attitude problem, fitness issues, self-interest and frail temperament when passing judgement.
While I think those footballing faults are unfairly exaggerated, the morally dubious forward is undoubtedly flawed. As a consequence, widespread slating of him has become par for the course. But Wayne Rooney is still a brilliant footballer. Those who claim otherwise don’t understand the game.
OK, at 27 it’s disappointing that he hasn’t developed into the planet-dominating Roy of the Rovers type player we all dreamed of a decade ago, but his record isn’t exactly shabby.
Never has Rooney played fewer than 36 games for United in a season (last year), and tellingly, never has he scored less than 16 goals either (again, last year). In those halcyon days of 2009/10 and 2011/12, even though it’ been quickly forgotten, he banged in 34.
Those stats don’t do justice to the fact that he’s also two or three footballers rolled into one. Not only is Rooney a predatory striker, he’s a slick and often ingenious creative talent, who puts his foot in and works for the side as well. Unbelievably, this is a player David Moyes is apparently willing to let go.
I know the arguments in favour of selling, I know the players’ faults, I know it’s better to offload someone who is unhappy, I know they could get someone younger. I understand it all.
What I can’t understand, despite the financial benefits of offloading a £250,000-a-week player, is why Man United aren’t trying harder to make him happy.
Earlier this week when Moyes deliberately stated “Overall my thought on Wayne is that for any reason we had an injury to Robin van Persie we are going to need him,” it sure as heck wasn’t going to make his best, or second best player, very happy.
Why didn’t the new boss reassure him that he’ll be vital to the team as a support striker, attacking midfielder or even as a regular partner for Van Persie? Despite the rumours, that’s all it might have taken to calm the storm. They didn’t choose that option. Moyes and Man United want rid.
The game-playing has since begun and by laying his cards on the table so publically, Jose Mourinho has the upper hand. After several meetings with Rooney, two of which took place at their respective homes, it’s too late for the former Everton boss to change his tune. Mourinho loves him, Moyesy doesn’t. It’s now extremely likely he will end up at Stamford Bridge. Call me crazy, but that can’t be great news for Man United’s title defence.
By selling to Chelsea, the champions will be weakening their squad greatly while at the same time, handing their rivals the final piece in their jigsaw.
From what I gather, Van Persie and Rooney get on like a house on fire. Full of respect for one another’s talent they don’t have a problem working together at all. It’s the manager, and maybe the club as a whole, that struggles with the concept of handling two superstars who both want the same thing.
Personally, I’m not convinced Wayne Rooney is desperate to leave Man United. All he wants, I suspect, is to know that he’s valued as a key man, their joint main man if you will. Even, if it’s a little white lie.
United have carefully chosen not to offer that assurance, and it’s to their detriment. Even though they can spend big on a hungry, young replacement, Wayne Rooneys simply don’t come along too often. He’d be terribly missed.
This fascinating game of transfer cat-and-mouse is destined for more twists and turns, but if United do end up sanctioning a sale to Chelsea, there will be only one winner. And, it won’t be them.
Rooney is 1.20 to join Chelsea this summer.
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