Rio Ferdinand scored his first goal in five years yesterday to end the Sir Alex Ferguson era at Old Trafford in the most fitting fashion. Late winners have been synonymous with Manchester United over the past 26 years and Ferdinand’s 87th minute strike summed up the attitude of a Ferguson team. Strangely though, everyone’s attitudes weren’t quite in sync as one of the more prominent figures in the United side didn’t take his place on the pitch on this momentous occasion. In fact, Wayne Rooney wasn’t in the squad at all.
In a post-match interview, Sir Alex confirmed the rumours over the last few days that suggested Rooney asked for a transfer. “I don’t think Wayne was keen to play simply because he’s asked for a transfer,” he said. “I think he wants to think things through in his mind; I think that’s a good idea.”
Of course, the whole situation has a familiar feel to it for this isn’t the first time Rooney has requested for a move away from United. In October of 2010, the striker was still riding on his phenomenal goal scoring season in the previous term and although he was yet to get into gear in the 2010-11 campaign, his stock was still through the roof and his surprising transfer request alerted plenty of high-profile suitors.
At the time, Rooney cited a ‘lack of ambition’ from the club as his reason to move on but Ferguson’s man management skills then came to the fore as he persuaded the English international to stay put and committed him to the club with a much improved long-term contract.
Coincidently, Rooney’s desire to be surrounded by top class players has inadvertently brought on his latest want-away mood. The phrase, “be careful what you wish for” seems apt in this regard. The emergence of Danny Welbeck and the prolific Javier Hernandez has given United plenty of options up front but it’s the two summer signings of Robin Van Persie and Shinji Kagawa that have arguably diminished Rooney’s importance to the squad.
Van Persie’s goals have taken away from the fact that Rooney’s tally of 16 is his joint-worst for United. Incidentally, that was during the 2010-11 campaign, when he last put in a transfer request. Meanwhile, with Kagawa finding his feet in a United shirt of late, many believe that the Japanese international could do a better job playing in the hole, where he thrived at Borussia Dortmund, than Rooney has. It’s hard to argue with that given the Englishman’s sloppy play at times this season.
This is not to say that Rooney is so easily dispensable at this juncture. His goals and particularly his assists this season still warrant his status as a top quality player. His versatility came in handy during this campaign as he featured up front, in the hole, on either flank and even in midfield. A player who is comfortable and effective in so many positions, is worth holding on to.
However, his below-par performances haven’t helped his cause. Ferguson suggested that Rooney has been disappointed with being taken off a few times this season. Perhaps the home leg in the Champions League against Real Madrid was a pivotal point in Rooney’s decision. Being left on the bench in a game of that magnitude was never going to go down well with someone of his character.
Nevertheless, Sir Alex also stated that “an in-form Wayne Rooney doesn’t get taken off”, and he has a fair point there. Perhaps the lack of professionalism from Rooney is what will leave the fans most disappointed. It certainly hasn’t been one of his better campaigns so objectively speaking, he’s only got himself to blame.
Rooney may feel unwanted at United at the moment but if he opens his eyes to the reality of the situation, he’ll realize that he has a bigger role to play in the club now more than ever. With the manager retiring and the irreplaceable Paul Scholes following suit, the squad will need guidance. Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs might have another season left in them. You’d think that the latter could play on forever but if Ferguson’s retirement taught us anything, it’s that reality eventuality sets in.
That leaves the likes of Michael Carrick, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra among the senior figures in the squad (Van Persie although experienced, is still new to the club). It’s time that Rooney realizes that he needs to take his place alongside that group of players and be an example to the rest of the squad.
For over two decades United have been a club in a state of continuity but with the managerial change and possible reshuffle in the coaching staff as well as the squad, the club finds itself in transition. Rooney could be one of the integral figures to steady the ship during this time.
Many United fans will be disappointed to see him leave after all he’s served the club well in the last nine seasons. His hat-trick on debut, his stunning volley against Newcastle United and his sensational overhead-kick in the Manchester derby are just a few of the many glorious moments he’s enjoyed in the red half of Manchester.
Ferguson also said that his transfer request was rejected but with a player like Rooney, that action is almost executed by default. Even if United are open to letting him go, they certainly aren’t going to make it easy for clubs to sign him by accepting his request and effectively slashing his market value by £10 million.
Ultimately, Rooney’s fate now lies in his eminent discussion with the new United manager, David Moyes, the same man who sold him to United in the first place. There are rumours of the former Evertonian joining the likes of Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain or even Arsenal but it’s hard to see how he can’t achieve at United what he thinks he could anywhere else.
As far as the squad is concerned, Ferguson leaves it in great shape and you sense that with a couple more signings, Moyes could have something really special on his hands and Rooney may live to regret it if he’s not a part of that. This is a squad of champions, many of whom are yet to fulfill their true potential.
United won’t pull out all the stops to keep their number 10 like they did a couple of years ago. If he still wants to leave after mulling over his situation in the summer, United will probably cash-in, albeit reluctantly, but will use the funds to bring in another top-notch player. However, like Gary Neville said yesterday regarding this Rooney fiasco, “there is nowhere to go from here. I have seen players join Real Madrid and other great clubs in Europe. But they always want to come back.”
|Will Rooney stay at Manchester United? Leave your comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @BrendonNetto.|
How do you stay up with football when on the move? With http://m.goal.com –your best source for mobile coverage of the beautiful game.