by Gautam Viswanathan Jul 23, 2013 10:38 IST
Should someone choose to put together an omnibus on the transfer speculation surrounding Wayne Rooney this season, the latest chapters in that book would surely be David Moyes’ public revelation regarding Wayne Rooney as second-choice to Robin van Persie, Manchester United Chairman Paul Woodward leaving Manchester United’s pre-season tour midway and both Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho fielding questions over whether they would be able to afford him.
But all this information would go towards making up the third volume of this long-running saga, which, while having gathered plenty of momentum underneath the surface, much like a volcano has only threatened to explode from time to time.
The question is, though, why is there so much speculation over a man Sven-Goran Ericsson once called 'the Golden Boy of English Football'?
Unfortunately, in the world that we live in, given the Iron Curtain-like secrecy that football clubs employ in order to guard their innermost secrets, fact and fiction tend to sometimes become indiscernible.
But to look at why this has begun, one has to look back at 2010, at that much-recanted tale of Rooney having a poor World Cup in South Africa in the midst of a media maelstrom that pointed fingers at his infidelity towards wife Colleen, who was then pregnant with his son Kai, while he was apparently frequenting prostitutes, some of whom were said to be much older than him.
Excuse me then while I pick up volume two of this tale and open it in order to examine what happened next.
Amid much confusion over his personal and professional life, Rooney’s representatives released a statement that questioned United’s ambitions at the time:
"I met with David Gill [United's chief executive] last week and he did not give me any of the assurances I was seeking about the future squad," Rooney said. "I then told him that I would not be signing a new contract.
"I was interested to hear what Sir Alex (Ferguson) had to say yesterday and was surprised by some of it. It is absolutely true, as he said, that my agent and I have had a number of meetings with the club about a new contract. During those meetings in August I asked for assurances about the continued ability of the club to attract the top players in the world."
Sir Alex at the time had said that Rooney had let down both his manager and the club. Given the suddenness surrounding his hasty decision to reportedly move to Manchester City and that United were about to lose their poster boy, the Glazer family, United’s owners, acted quickly and as we all know, Rooney became the club's highest paid player.
But truth be told, that statement was only the latest in what was a symptom of what was really affecting Wayne Rooney. It was clumsy at best, given that United have always sought to pursue excellence when it comes to football and having been there since the age of 18, would surely know that.
That improved contract seemed to keep him quiet for the short term, but as it always is with problems that you do handle with large sums of money, his situation resurfaced this summer in a fashion more ominous than it previously had.
Visionary that he is, Ferguson would have surely seen this coming. He would have foreseen this meltdown and that could be one the reasons he sprung for Robin van Persie the previous summer. That in a way showed how much faith he had in Rooney’s qualities as a world-class striker: there were very few like him in England and fewer still who would fit in at United.
Van Persie’s succulent performances in a United shirt took the spotlight away from Rooney, and that in many ways symbolised yet another player being shown the 'my way or the highway' approach employed by Ferguson.
Rooney being Rooney, it may not have been as obvious as some of the other players to whom this treatment has been meted out in the past, but for some of United’s most important and symbolic games, Ferguson was making a statement of intent by dropping the striker.
He failed to make the matchday squad against Real Madrid – a game so obviously crucial to United’s trophy aims – and played no part in games against Swansea (Ferguson’s last game at Old Trafford) and West Bromwich Albion (his final game for the club). This showed that the Scotsman wanted nothing to do with the striker.
He needed his footballing talents to secure the title and once his 12 goals and 10 assists had helped him do that, he had no need for his services.
The arrival of Van Persie and Shinji Kagawa to provide ammunition to him was meant to establish an axis that would see Rooney removed from the picture, and maybe that's why United drafted in the Japan international. Although he did not get to see as much game time as one would expect from the former Borussia Dortmund man, his first season at United would’ve been a bedding-in period for him, if Sir Alex had been laying the groundwork for life without Rooney.
As Paul Hayward of The Telegraph says: "If younger opponents go shooting by him, he is vulnerable to the rival claims of team-mates who possess the speed and energy to regain possession. Carrying more bulk than he should, he is bound to perspire and tire too early in matches and therefore look exposed by modern football’s hyper-activeness."
Much fun has been made of Rooney because of his weight. That he is called ‘Shrek’ and ‘Fatman’, a rather crude play on Batman, is because of his stocky build. If one were to compare his physique to the likes of Fernando Torres, Sergio Aguero, Lukas Podolski or Luis Suarez, one could see where they were coming from.
When Rooney was at Everton, those involved behind the scenes spoke of a rift between David Moyes and the striker. Clearly, it was never to be mentioned in public: Moyes sued Rooney for including that information in his autobiography and has mentioned in no uncertain terms that Rooney will only be second choice to van Persie and will have to make do as a squad member of Moyes’ side.
Given that he has now had a falling out with two managers, both of whom were so instrumental in making him the player he is today, it is clear now – as it was for Van Persie a year ago at Arsenal – that he will never be fully accepted by members of the United fanbase.
If it is because of an arrogance that stems from the fact that he is one of the best English players of his generation, it is surely one that will see him take the plunge as quickly as he has risen to the top given that fame in football is so fleeting.
If it is because he is now no longer being afforded the spotlight that is being shone on other players at United, he will need to prove to those in charge of the club that he is worthy of it.
It’s not money he wants, it’s not glory he craves. He has plenty of both. What he does seek is sadly something only he knows. And given that this seems to be a recurring thread that seems to have stemmed from the time he left Everton (volume one of this three-part saga), this is clearly something he has to confront.
And that is something he can only do on his own.
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