This week @AmyEustace ponders Wayne Rooney’s Old Trafford future following David Moyes’ appointment as Alex Ferguson’s successor.
If, like me, you’re one of the many football fans who have never known a world in which Fergie doesn’t stalk the Old Trafford touchline, chomping gum, chewing out referees and dictating the ebb and flow of injury time, you’re probably doing some soul searching. It was bound to happen some time, but then again, so is the end of the world and we’re not quite ready for that yet, either. This week, the news that Sir Alex Ferguson was stepping down after twenty six years as Manchester United manager all but broke the internet.
If (also like me) you’re not exactly Ferguson’s biggest fan, you may be ready to dance on his managerial career’s proverbial grave. Like him or not, most will concede that one of the game’s true greats is gone and that nothing will ever really be the same. Under Fergie, it was more or less a given that United would continue their dominance – at least until senile dementia kicked in. Now, the league feels wide open, a vast unknown, even if he has undoubtedly left behind a lasting legacy.
The thought of a Manchester United without Ferguson boggles the mind, but an altogether less difficult concept to wrap your head around is the thought of Wayne Rooney leaving Old Trafford. The want-away Scouse striker has had an even more surly look about him than usual as of late. To be fair, it has been coming; Rooney has been decidedly different ever since an unfortunate chain of events beginning with an ankle injury in a Champions League tie with Bayern Munich in March 2010, culminating in his apparent total mental breakdown the following October.
He handed in a transfer request in true toys-out-of-pram style in the hopes of a cross-town transfer to Manchester City. The shock move was quickly reversed, when he penned a multi-million pound contract with United instead. Though the former Everton star later described the whole affair as the ‘biggest mistake of his life’, he never quite won back the many of the United fans whose hearts he broke that day.
He started 2010 with a blistering hot streak – scoring 19 goals in 18 games – but ended it in a thankless drought, leaving fans and neutrals alike scratching their heads as to whether Ferguson had been right to keep the striker and not leave him out to pasture as punishment for his audacity. Of course, the manager was proven right – Rooney’s contribution to United’s title success in 2011 and indeed this year is not to be dismissed – but now that he seemingly wants to leave again, it’s unlikely that the club will repeat the level of effort they put in to keeping him before.
Then, he famously craved a club with ‘more ambition’. In a way, he got exactly what he wished for. United’s splurge on Robin Van Persie has reduced Rooney to a secondary role and he was left out of the side which faced Real Madrid at Old Trafford in the Champions League. He has already poignantly removed the words ‘Manchester United player’ from his Twitter biography and has been plainly agitating for a move away from Old Trafford for months.
A Rooney repeat on Dave?
Now, of course, there’s the David Moyes dimension. The announcement that the Everton manager will be Ferguson’s successor could make or break the whole engagement. Rooney and Moyes have previous, of course. The Scot nurtured his burgeoning, somewhat terrifying teenage talent at Everton but libel proceedings following the publication of allegations against Moyes in the England star’s autobiography soured their relationship. The pair have since buried the hatchet, but at a time when Rooney seems disillusioned with football in general, is that enough to spark another u-turn?
After all, while the seed of discontent festers within Wayne Rooney’s potato brain, Moyes will still be winding down Everton’s quintessentially ‘meh’ season. Even if he wanted to keep the striker – which is a matter for debate – for the moment at least the issue will remain unresolved; the first of the countless challenges he will no doubt face down Sir Matt Busby Way.
As for whether or not Moyes should keep Rooney, the answer is probably not. This is the second time in three seasons that Rooney has clamoured for a move and, as a senior player by now, it’s unlikely to have a positive effect on his teammates. It’s interesting to see how the reaction to his apparent desire to leave United differs from 2010 – then it was shock and anger, now it just seems like United have had enough. His obvious skill aside, it’s probably best for all involved if Rooney finds a new home.
The question for Wayne is not so much when as it is where. He’s hardly the cosmopolitan Englishman suited to continental football. More of a brute than a Beckham. Then again, if Joey Barton can do it, there’s hope for anyone. The idea of a swap deal with Real Madrid for the self-confessedly ‘sad’ Cristiano Ronaldo would appease the masses, but the idea of Ronaldo answering to David Moyes doesn’t quite fit after years under José Mourinho. Perhaps the dream of the prodigal son’s return to Old Trafford died with Ferguson’s retirement.
Certainly moving to another English club would guarantee Rooney a rocky ride on any visit to Manchester. He would only realistically be affordable to Chelsea or Manchester City; a transfer to either would certainly give the Old Trafford terraces something to shout about. Piers Morgan has said that should Rooney move to Arsenal, he’ll stop calling him Shrek. Obviously that’s all that Wayne ever wanted. To be loved. By Piers Morgan.
A Manchester United spokesperson the other day claimed, “Wayne Rooney is not for sale”. The new manager, and the man himself, may disagree. Keeping him now against his will would be insanity. Moyes knows ‘how hard it will be to follow the best manager ever’ and the act will be difficult enough without a tempestuous toddler like Rooney picking his nose and grunting at him from the bench. If he is ever going to earn the level of respect Fergie had from his players by default, his first act should be some weed-chopping before the cancer of disillusionment spreads.
Steve Bruce, United skipper in Ferguson’s earlier days in Manchester, gave probably the best and most self-aware quote of the week in the aftermath of Hull City’s promotion to the Premier League on Sunday. Asked what he would do to celebrate, he said: “I’ll have a few beers and I’ll enjoy it now. I’ll try to relax and put this horrible body on a beach somewhere hot and see how red it goes.” Relaxing for him, probably not for anybody else on that beach.
High Times in Holland
Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, fans of ADO Den Haag fell ill and fainted in the stands during a match after receiving some ‘corporate hospitality’. It was later revealed that they had eaten ‘space cakes’ or ‘hash brownies’, if you will, in the corporate boxes. That’s one way of inducing stadium atmosphere, I suppose, but Den Haag were quick to deny any responsibility for the incredibly ‘high’ level of service provided…
Mad Mario Kart
If there is one thing this season has been sorely lacking, it’s tales of Mario Balotelli’s off pitch exploits. This week, in Mario-land, he took his £200,000 Ferrari out on a mini-kart track, circumventing terms in his contract with AC Milan that prohibit him from karting for fear of injury. According to track owner Joe Ghiringhelli, who spoke to the Daily Mail, he spent almost an hour there. “We let him take his new Ferrari out on the track and he was roaring around laughing and having fun.”