Is a blue moon rising for Wayne Rooney?
For Manchester United and its supporters, it was a week they would rather forget. It began on March 30, 2010 when Wayne Rooney limped off with an ankle injury after Bayern Munich scored an injury-time winner during the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final. While the German players were celebrating, Rooney was helped off the field. A few days later back at Old Trafford, Chelsea eeked out a decisive 2-1 win against a Manchester United side that was feeble in attack sans the injured Rooney. And days later, to seal the fate of a dreadful week, United crashed out of the Champions League on aggregate.
Rooney started that second leg much to the surprise of everyone except for the striker and his manager. But in hindsight, Ferguson’s gutsy move backfired as Rooney took a knock midway through the first half and had to be substituted. Seeing an injured Rooney removed from the pitch was a bad omen. Things were only going to get worse.
Fast forward to October and it seems illogical that Rooney would have any animosity or grievances against Ferguson. After all, Ferguson has been patient with Rooney ever since March, allowing him time to rest at the beginning of this season and then utilizing the striker most of the season to date. When the newspaper scandal broke alleging that Rooney slept with a prostitute while his wife was pregnant, Ferguson made the wise choice of not including Rooney in the squad for the game against Everton at Goodison Park. And when Rooney last week publicly contradicted Ferguson’s story that Rooney was nursing an ankle injury, the England striker was deservedly benched from the starting line-up against West Bromwich Albion.
My question for Wayne Rooney is what has Sir Alex Ferguson done to infuriate the striker? It was Rooney who committed infidelity. It was Rooney who had a poor performance for England in the World Cup. It was Rooney who has been a second-rate player for Manchester United during recent months. Personally I don’t think Ferguson has made a wrong move during this entire situation.
Not only has Ferguson tried to help Rooney during the past six months, but it was Ferguson and Manchester United who were responsible for taking the raw talent of Rooney when he was at Everton and turning him into one of the world’s best footballers. Let’s not forget that the Rooney at Everton was a temperamental liability who was quick to lash out at players. And let us also not forget that Rooney had his problems with David Moyes. Rooney seemingly didn’t like the way that Moyes was trying to protect the player by not starting him all the time. Perhaps Rooney’s insecurity at Goodison Park has reared its ugly head again, this time at Old Trafford.
The year 2010 has been one in which Rooney has made several mistakes both on and off the pitch. But perhaps the biggest mistake he’s about to make is to leave Manchester United. If he does leave Old Trafford, I believe it’s because he’s running away from his past. The allure of a much larger pay packet may seem like it’ll paper over the cracks, but the reality is that it’s perhaps a clean slate that he’s seeking where he can start all over again and feel loved by both manager and supporters.
Manchester City seems like the logical choice for Rooney to join. Rooney’s agent may target City especially if it helps create a bidding war among other European clubs to capture his signing. But I can see Rooney in the blue shirt of City in January if United, City, Rooney and his agent can agree terms. Whether he’ll end up there, at another top European club or makes amends with Ferguson, we’ll have to wait and see. But right now, Rooney has definitely gone down a rung or two in my estimation of him. I thought he had matured but it seems that by his actions and indifference when playing this season that this is a troubled man with a strong desire to leave the club that made him into one of the best players in the world.
Even if he does join Manchester City, he has a chance to regain the faith of many of his followers by playing at the top of his game. And if City can win his signature, it’ll be the sign of another power shift from the red half to the blue half of Manchester. If both teams are still in the race near the end of the 2010-11 Premier League season, the capture of Rooney by City could propel Roberto Mancini’s team to leapfrog United and secure a Premier League title or runner’s-up place. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Not yet, at least.