The Club v Country Debate

He’s my hero of sorts, the integral piece of the attacking puzzle to my beloved Manchester United and my (adopted) country of England. He’s the bulldog who never gives up, the born leader with enough natural footballing talent to make the recently departed Cristiano Ronaldo raise an eye in disbelief and possibly realize United haven’t missed him quite as much as we all once thought.

He carries the hopes of a nation and doesn’t even mind. He shrugs off pressure like he shrugs off central defenders. He won’t slow down, he loves playing too much. He’s uncommonly balanced an incredible on-field and quiet off-field life, all the while being tipped as the next world great,….

Even heroes make mistakes.

As Paul Scholes was, well, Paul Scholes on Saturday, Manchester United unconvincingly found their way back to the summit of the Premier League with a 1-0 win at Wolves while neutrals and United fans simultaneously agreed on the deserved and well earned position that United have craved for some months. All this glory and pomp occurred in Wolverhampton, England at Molineux as the infallible Wayne Rooney was left home “unavailable” with a swollen knee.

The 24-year old Rooney was already struggling with a knee knock before last weekend’s Carling Cup final (wherein he scored the winning goal) but still found time to play 86 minutes in an International Friendly v Egypt on a disastrous Wembley pitch – a pitch so infamous it claimed another hammy as United striker and England old boy Michael Owen limped off in the same Carling Cup final where Rooney was hero with a season ending tear.

I don’t think he should have played on Wednesday“, vented Sir Alex Ferguson. Without ten more Fergie quotes, the boss went on to let his discontent be known stating Rooney’s enthusiasm for all things “kicking a ball” as his potential downfall. This all raises the age old debate of club v country where countless footballers past, present and future have or will succumb to injury, or will fail to take valuable r&r when available (most recently see under Robin van Persie for the Netherlands and Arsenal, but the list is a mile long).

Reports suggest Rooney could now be out for the Champions League second leg return match at Old Trafford this Wednesday v AC Milan where United hold the slimmest of margins in the aggregate scoreline (3-2).

So, how do solve a problem like a’Rooney?

Ultimately it’s a conundrum that the finest footballing minds don’t necessarily want to tackle, how do you slow down a lion that doesn’t want to be stopped? It’s Rooney’s thirst for football, his work rate, his passion, his competitive nature and his addiction to performing at the highest possible level, at least in this situation, that has eventually been his downfall. The proof is all there, he’s taken a risk (the England friendly) and will unfortunately have to pay a price (missing the Premier League match v Wolves and possibly the Champions League mach on Wednesday) before we know how serious the injury is.

Maybe this knee knock is minor, maybe he’ll return with enough strength to take United to the Champions League final and Premier League title, maybe he’ll lead England to the grandest prize in world football, trust me, I would take all three of those, but they’re concealed complexities that rest on deciding factors other than Wayne Rooney’s ability alone.

Was Rooney right in playing out 86 minutes last Wednesday for England in a game that in the grand scheme of England’s World Cup hopes didn’t mean much? Does Fabio Capello have any blame in this matter? Surely he knows how valuable Rooney is to Manchester United’s title hopes. England fans will remember seeing Chelsea’s Frank Lampard pulled after the half, why risk Rooney another 45 minutes with England fringe players ready and willing?

Does the sole responsibility come down to Rooney himself? Should he be able to manage his own playing time with country without Fergie butting in?

I believe Rooney should have played a much smaller part in the England friendly or pulled his name from availability all together. The week off would have been just what he needed as the business end of the season fast approaches. Ultimately this rest would have gone a long way to securing his World Cup fitness, he’ll need as much rest as possible between now and the summer.

What are your thoughts on the club v country debate?

12 thoughts on “The Club v Country Debate”

  1. This debate has been going on for years and it always will. The problem is Ferguson doesn’t care about England and Capello doesn’t care about Man Utd. They only care about their respective teams and what is best for those.
    If Feruson had his way, none of his players would play internationals, why would he want them to? He has nothing to gain but everything to lose if one of them gets injured.
    My personal opinion is that it should be players choice, only he knows whether he is fit enough and I’m sure Rooney thought he was.
    As for this injury, it is probably nothing, just Fergie trying to prove that what he said was right, you don’t need to worry, Fergie might rest him against Wolves but he’ll be back for the Milan game.

  2. England has a world cup to get ready for and Rooney is without any reasonable doubt the best player on the planet right now for club AND country. (Messi and Ronaldo apologists need to explain why those two players don’t carry their club form to the international level). I think Fergie’s act which is years old of complaining about internationals has worn thin for a nation hungry for success, looking towards the shining light of Wayne Rooney to bring that glory this summer in South Africa.

    If Capello wanted to play him 90 minutes, that’s fine with me. Fergie should be thankful he was subbed out when he was. This is a World Cup year, not three years out.

    1. Kartik,
      Thanks for the feedback.

      I agree with your assessment that when looking at club and country form Rooney is tops. And of course, any and all club managers will have a moan when one of their star players are off getting kicked and thus risking injury, but my one problem with Rooney was that he knew he was carrying a minor knock and chose to play almost a full 90 minutes during the midweek friendly anyway (with important Premier League and CL fixtures upcoming).

      In all actuality, wouldn’t Rooney’s exclusion be better preparation for England than playing him and risking further injury on a dodgy Wembley pitch? It is a WC year, but England will have sufficient time to train and organize after the domestic season. Why take the risk? And realistically, we’re only talking about one match.

      I guess I’m becoming too overprotective of Rooney now and throughout the next few months only because I realize how valuable he is.

    2. I hate Fergie and his dislike for all things International football, hit mysterious injuries right before international duty, and his blasting the national team for anything short of breathing hard on his players. And while all that stuff worked under McLaren, it won’t work with the new Don Fabio in town.

      That said, I completely understand why clubs with billions of debts built up on buying players would feel apprehensive about them getting injured in far flung reaches of the planet.

      But until FIFA changes the rules, all they can do is complain and lie about injuries.

  3. Well, said Lions, Alex – the proud Scotsman, has stated throughout the years that he could care less about any of his players playing for England – Rooney included. He has a right to his opinion, he pays the lad’s wages.

    Cappello has a right to ignore Sir Alex and play Rooney in any official international. However, I don’t know what was gained by playing a proven Rooney, who had a slight knock, for 90 minutes. England is short of other obvious “go to” strikers. With the World Cup just a few months away Cappello would’ve served England better by starting the “plan-b” options up front.

  4. I think club comes first they pay your wages and a little friendly isn’t anything to get worried about. In fact if Capello is smart enough to play Rooney on a tough pitch when his knee is sore I don’t think England will get very far in the World Cup this year with that kind of decision making.

    He had an opportunity to not only prevent risking aggravating Rooneys injury but he also had an opportunity to play some other strikers and he didn’t and all for the sake of a friendly on a notoriously bad pitch.

    All in all Rooney is like a young bulldog full of energy and life and the way you direct him is very important. Capello made a mistake and Ferguson was correct about what he said. Considering that Rooney wasn’t even on the bench for Wolves his injury must be a real issue. I don’t think Rooney will be playing against AC Milan which is going to be an issue.

    AC Milana are a good team and there is every possibility they will win that match. With Rooney out of it the attacking blade will be blunted severely which means Manchester United won’t have somebody to keep AC Milan too busy trying to defend to attack. All in all I think there is a risk of United falling out of the Champions League this coming week and its all the fault of a young man who can’t sit still and an older man who took advantage of that.

    Rooney still has a lot to learn.

  5. 1st- Capello has a limited number of freindlies to figure who to partner up with Rooney.

    2nd- ManU and other clubs do benifit from the International game, people love all over the world love this game because they dream of playing for their country. ManU players like Jung Se Park sell millions of jerseys because a few times a year they go home and play for their countries.

    I understand why the clubs want to protect their players, and I think the Champions League is a superior level than the international game- even the World Cup. But the World Cup is great- ain’t it? I love both levels of the game.

  6. The club pays the wages so until the league season is over, priority must be with the club. It was reckless to play him in a meaningless friendly. I agree that it should be the players decision but he needs to remember where his bread is buttered. After the season is over he can give his 100% to Capello.

  7. Jesse,

    I think that Three Lions set the issue out best when he commented that neither manager cares for the position of the other. I think it creates an intractable problem for which there is not currently and possibly never will be a good solution.

    I certainly disagree with the idea that selection and performance in any fixture should be player’s choice. Absolutely not. That would create an absolute disaster for both the club and national manager for a number of reasons:

    1) As Three Lions pointed out, and Ferguson did too, the player’s are generally very competitive men. They want to play. Playing for national teams are often a matter of pride, and moreso for the talismanic players. The player is more likely to keep his true condition hidden or play when he is not truly fit if his selection is up to him.

    2) It undermines the manager’s authority. The decision to pick a player or not has to rest completely with the manager. The manager could choose to consult with the player, and most wise one’s would, but no player should be given the authority to make himself available or not to the manager based on his personal views about his status. A manager must have the ability to pick any player or sit any player and need not justify it to the players. To do otherwise risks the manager losing the dressing room. This is ESPECIALLY true of national teams where the level of player ego is high and diversity of personality is wide. Managers are already having to balance the playing times and demands of players like Gerrard and Lampard, who are both leaders for their domestic teams and play similar positions. Imagine the nightmare if one of those players could then decide for themselves their playing time and role (which is what would happen if the player could use his availability as a negotiating instrument).

    I’ve been a player, captain, and manager of competitive teams. The only situation that will keep a team functioning well in my opinion is if the players are open with the manager about their condition and their desires, but then willingly place themselves in the hands of the manager regarding roles, responsibilities, and playing times. After that, it must be in the responsible manager’s hands. Players don’t have to like it, they just have to do it.

    At the same time, the manager needs to take the player’s desires and condition into account, if they want their player’s to play for them and feel valued. But there is no incentive at all to take ANOTHER MANAGER’S desire’s into account, except the remote connection that if the player is hurt or overworked for club, he might not be available for country. That link clearly isn’t enough to motivate many managers as history has shown time and again.

    So, barring a change in the system which creates a stronger incentive for club managers and national managers to cooperate, the system is intractable, and we all get to live with it and the endless stream of news headlines when players are chosen and hurt for one or other side.



  8. Well i guess the club is better.these days united strikers are not doing what we need(berbatov can provide assists but needs to score goals)and 2 goalscorers are out(owen and rooney).why dont they do something with the wembley?I know playing for a country is surely a honour but in the final matches of a team who needs the player to win is not fair.rooney is energetic agreed,but fabio took the advantage.after all the club pays the wages to the players.
    AC milan is sharp and not having rooney is like a blade which isnt so sharp.united will be short of good strikers..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *