Time for Wayne Rooney to control his own destiny

Author: Patrick Mather

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As the blood trickled down his thigh, and he manfully attempted to stay on his feet, one could say that Wayne Rooney’s career had reached a tipping point. Whereas once the merest hint of an injury to the talismanic forward would have been met with gasps of horror around Old Trafford, on Saturday there was a very different atmosphere. Yes, there was an undoubted sense of worry, but it appeared to stem more from concern over Rooney’s immediate wellbeing, not from a feeling of impending doom for the club though; as now, there is a Dutch safety net, one that Rooney himself has been clamouring for in recent years, in the shape of Robin van Persie. Yet ironically, it may well be that with the granting of Rooney’s wish, comes the dismantling of his own status as Manchester United’s irreplaceable superstar.

It is an irrefutable fact that Rooney’s rapport with the fans has taken a battering since his public admission that he wanted out, that he felt that the club could no longer match his ambition. Once regarded as something of an ‘honorary red’ for his never-say-die enthusiasm, coupled with his working class roots, Rooney managed to extricate himself from this lofty position in one fell swoop. Fans now view him as just another player, not quite as high up the mercenary ladder as part-time golfer Carlos Tevez, but certainly enough rungs above the likes of Neville, Scholes and Giggs to ensure that his legendary status was in jeopardy. Acting on the advice of his trusted agent Paul Stretford probably seemed like the right idea, especially given that in the end he got what he was after, a huge pay rise to place him among the highest earners in world football. But, and this will come as a surprise to many, football isn’t all about money. Loyalty and commitment are the lifeblood of the game, two attributes which Rooney seemed to possess in abundance. Yes, I’m sure that first characteristic will draw chuckles from any Evertonians out there, but there has always been genuineness about Rooney’s desire to further his career. And this public display of disenchantment was quite clearly motivated by a desire for money, and nothing else. There is a right way to handle business, and then there is the way Rooney/Stretford went about it.

Labouring the intricacies of Stretford’s negotiating techniques is futile so long after the event, and whilst he undoubtedly played his part, at the end of it all, Rooney is a grown man able to act of his own accord. So we move on to his actions on the pitch. Last season he performed admirably in a stunted United side which relied more upon a ruthless team unit than any creative sparkle. Although he was nowhere near his best, he enjoyed his most productive season in terms of goals, and began to repair the bridges which he had almost burnt completely in the previous season. Then, however, came Rooney’s Achilles heel – an international tournament. Since bursting onto the global stage with his devastating performances at Euro 2004, Rooney’s international career has never managed to get off the ground. Injury and a loss of temper bookended his first appearance at a World Cup in 2006, and World Cup 2010 was an unmitigated disaster, remembered more for his angry outburst at the travelling fans (alas, the band weren’t mentioned) than any footballing contribution. So Euro 2012 had been billed as his time to shine, to take the international bull by the horns. But his red card in the final qualifier against Montenegro left him unavailable for the opening two matches of the tournament. Not only did this red card affect his chances to leave a lasting impression on his fourth major tournament, it also pre-empted the lethargy of this embryonic campaign. Because Roy Hodgson decided to give Rooney extra time off in order to overcome a troublesome injury, and that decision allowed Rooney a holiday, during which his fitness markedly strayed from its peak level. So when he returned to international duty in the pre-tournament friendly against Belgium, he looked heavy and in need of match practice. Yet he was to be denied that until the third group game, which was weeks away. When Rooney took to the field against the Ukraine, he looked rusty and some way off peak condition, yet he managed to snare the only goal which ensured England’s safe passage to the knockout stage. But he didn’t improve physically and his abject performance against Italy summed up his recent England travails.

Fast forward to this pre-season and Rooney once again looked way off the pace. Now this would be understandable in comparison with the majority of the United squad who had commenced training weeks earlier, but two players who came back at the same time as Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Nani, looked to be as sharp as any. Rooney managed to bag two goals against Hannover, continuing his trait for scoring whilst underperforming in general play. But his performance level reached a new low at his old stomping ground Goodison Park for the opening match of the season. Not only was his usual pace lacking (and if you doubt his speed, watch the run for his first at the Emirates a couple of seasons back) but he didn’t even appear up for the physical battle, constantly ceding possession in the face of pressing midfielders. His performance was enough to earn the wrath of Sir Alex, and ensured that Rooney had the best seat in the house for Saturday’s game against Fulham. He also appeared to receive an indirect mention in the manager’s programme notes, as he spoke of potentially selling a big-name player if he saw the situation worthy of such drastic action.

Now all of this would suggest that this is a player on the wane who would be happily moved on, but that is not the case. Whenever asked on Twitter or by friends over the last two years whether I would sell Rooney if the money was right, I have always replied no. Rooney is a player who undoubtedly possesses the ability to be one of the best in the world, and now that Didier Drogba has left the league, I would describe him as the best all-round striker in the division. The caveat is that these statements are only true when Rooney is fully fit, and 100% focussed. I can’t think of another player I have seen who so regularly fluctuates between performances of genuine class and those more likely to be put in by a hungover Sunday-league player. He will never reach the levels of Lionel Messi, who is a freak of nature, the like of which may never be seen again. Neither will Rooney scale the heights of Cristiano Ronaldo, whose dedication to his physical form ensures that he is able to even be mentioned in the same sentence as Messi. Yet Rooney still has time on his side to ensure that he goes down as the greatest English player of all time, and break Sir Bobby Charlton’s longstanding goal scoring records for both club and country. For the power is in his hands, because a fit and firing Wayne Rooney is a sight of beauty for those on his side, and one to trawl the nightmares of his rivals. Rebuilding his connection with the United faithful may take a while longer, but he only needs to look at two of his teammates and their fortunes to see that times change. Fellow Scouser Steven Gerrard once held the fairly understandable view that Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea would provide him more trophy-winning opportunities than anything his beloved Liverpool could offer, yet he had a dramatic u-turn and has now retaken his place as the darling of the Kop, only superseded in their estimations by a once great player and manager, now not great at either, Kenny Dalglish. Closer to home, Ryan Giggs suffered the ignominy of being booed at Old Trafford during a poor spell in the 2002/2003 season. Now he only has to leisurely stroll over to take a corner in order to receive a standing ovation.

So Rooney can manage his destiny. He could easily drop down the pecking order at United and be sold next summer for a hefty sum, but he has an even easier option, and that it is to ingrain his standing in Manchester United folklore by utilising his greatest attributes, his intense desire for personal success and his god-given talent.

22 Comments on Time for Wayne Rooney to control his own destiny

  1. Oh come on fellas, 1 bad game and its the end of the world and Rooney is finished? + it was the FIRST game of the season. People are too quick to jump to conclusions these days. For fuck sakes! This is Waybe Rooney were talking about here, the man who looks to be on his way to going past Sir Bobbys all time gaolscoring recored for the club in a few years + he’s still young. The man who has taken on the burden of carrying our team through ever since Ronaldo left. He’s been an absolute star these last couple years besides for the couple months he went awol and was badly advised by his agent. Lay off the lad though.

    Imo he’s still the heart and soul of our team. He’s an incredible footballer NQAT and will continue scoring goals for years to come in a MUFC shirt! #leaveityeah

  2. I think this article is great. I also agree with Patrick, that when Rooney is fit & 100% focus, he is unstoppable. He will score goals and create beautiful things on the pitch, but again, if he’s fit and focus. Thumbs up for this article!

  3. @pat rice – have you even read the piece?

    “1 bad game and its the end of the world and Rooney is finished? + it was the FIRST game of the season. People are too quick to jump to conclusions these days. For fuck sakes!” – clearly not

  4. Rooney despite scoring over twenty goals last season was a hugh disappointment.His overall game was of a very poor standard in the majority of matches.The facts dont lie,he gave the ball away more than any other Utd player last season and had only two assists.Fergie saw this and thats why he signed Kagawa and RVP.Kagawa has been signed to play in the so called”hole”where Rooney likes to play.RVP along with scoring holds the ball very well for players running beyond him something Rooney failed to do last season.Lets hope he recovers his old swagger but he is not No1 on the team sheet anymore.

  5. You start off the piece harshly, but when I was done reading it, I couldn’t do anything but agree.

    Maybe it’s tough for some of us to see the reality when it comes to Rooney. That young boy full of energy is now unfit and barely running. It’s a sad sight, but it will be better.

    However, there’s really no guarantee that it will be better than last season – that frightens me. That a player who – on his best day – deserves to be compared to Messi, Ronaldo and the worlds greatest ever, can be so careless about his own fitness and sharpness is nothing short of shocking. Hopefully now that he’s got world class (Kagawa not too far off that description) competition, he realize that he’s got to be sharp and fit to play. And his hunger of playing in games should not be underrated – that can make the difference.

    I hope he comes back to his world beating self, because when he do, United have one of the best attacks and attackers in the world.

    Great piece by the way.

  6. This article is quite laughable to be honest. Let’s slate our best player of the last couple years because he looks unfit and not in form after 1 match of the season why don’t we eh? Lol what a load of bollocks! Wayne rooneh wayne rooneh he goes by the name of wayne rooneh!!! He’s our best player and is on his way to achieving greatness at MUFC! Get behind the lad for FFS!

  7. @ Pat Rice

    I suggest you read the article. In short, the only negative about Rooney in this piece is that he can’t play week in week out if he’s careless about his fitness anymore – because the fans will no longer accept it and because we now have van Persie.

    I do think the author here is well aware of what Rooney can do on his best day, and guess what, he wrote that in the article as well.

  8. @ doron – u right, I never bothered reading this caus imo there’s nothing to read!WR hasn’t had a proper pre season, he played 2 games for england and 1 or 2 pre season games! For WR that’s simply not enough…the lad needs a full pre season as we all saw last season, he came out firing! Writing the lad off, slating him because he looks unfit after 1 game is simply ridiculous! Enough said

  9. i think this article is spot on..rooney has to work on his game because it has become 1 dimensional…remember d quality of goals after coming back from injury in 10/11…he scored in almost all d crucial games…while he did score last season too…they were more in quantity n less in impact…if he had carried d 10/11 form to a major tournament he would have easily helped eng do much better…sadly england does not have a substitute of his quality n hence heavily rely on him…utd now have rvp,chicha n a matured welback who will rise up to cope without him..n if rooney is as g8 a player as we all expect him to be then he ll rise up to d challenge to remind every1 that he is still that superstar

  10. Was WR unfit against EVERTON? Was he? Really? Hmm I’m not so sure! Yes he never had a good game and looked a bit sluggish at times, but so did a lot of our players to be fair. Just because he’s WR people expect the lad to be at his best every time he waers a red shirt! Give me a break because that’s definitely not the case – with any player – well except for Messi…well he’s just a freak! And Ronaldo obviously!
    A lot of you are saying that with WR out for a couple months that we fine! Fuckin hell, are we??? Nobodys panicking because we have RvP now but I can tell you that I’m panincking! He’s without a doubt our best player! We rely on Wazza not just for goals but for a lot more than that! I always say that when WR is in a MUFC lineup I feel a lot more at ease.
    For people to start writing him off, what’s the point of it?? Ok if the lad had a couple bad games, maybe 4 or 5 shite performances in a row then alright, fine I have no problem with that BUT COME ON, 1 GAME??? Bloody hell. #leaveityeah
    You’ll all be looking like mugs in a couple months time when the lad is banging them in…

  11. @pat rice

    “Was WR unfit against EVERTON? Was he? Really? Hmm I’m not so sure!” – come on, I know you love to defend United players to the hills but the guy was completely off the pace. That’s an observation not a criticism.

    You just hashtagged in a comment *sigh*

    “You’ll all be looking like mugs in a couple months time when the lad is banging them in…” – not sure anyone’s disputing Wayne’s qualities or ability to score goals.

  12. @ doron #leaveityeah! I’ll defend WR no matter what! There’s 2 United players however that I won’t defend namely Bebe and Phil Jones…

  13. I think you are somewhat harsh on Rooney, But i do admit that since he’s ‘I want out debacle’ i’ve not felt the same about Rooney. Something died that day between Rooney and the fans.. i don’t think it will ever be refound.. Like someone else wrote ‘ i always feel more assured when rooney is in the team’ i would agree, i do myself and i don’t think just because rvp is here now that we can neglect what rooney brings to the team! i seriously doubt that fergie brought in rvp to replace rooney…more so to complete an attacking package of 4 stikers all offering something different..
    Yes he looks off the pace, and he is the type of player who either needs a full pre-season or 3 or 4 games of PL football to find his level…if rvp hadn’t scored the other day and had a mediocre performance and if rooney had scored when he came on then we wouldn’t even be talking about this… i believe that are team is a better one with rooney in it, the quality of the team has imrpoved with kagawa and rvp but they weren’t bought to replace, they were bought to compliment each other…
    a typical crap WR from rooney and 1 game into the season and we’re already on his back!!! lets wait till december before we judge the new mufc outfit.

  14. @ Pat Rice

    When did anyone say that Rooney is rubbish, that Rooney can’t score goals, that Rooney isn’t needed at United anymore or that we need to get rid of him?

    The only criticism on Rooney’s part is the fact that he’s not looking fit and sharp, and not only in the Everton game. He’s been looking unfit since the end of the season, and numerous of longer periods before (his 10 day Nike camp in USA is a good example). That’s the problem with Rooney. When he’s fit and sharp he’s a world beater, when he’s got a few pounds too much, far away from match fit and looks rusty, he’s almost a problem for the team, and a much worse option than Kagawa, van Persie or really any other attacking player.

    I think that’s the point we’re trying to make here, but it’s hard to make a point when you’re not reading, holding for your ears while shouting “I’ll defend Rooney regardless!”.

  15. @ lars your saounding like scott the red…its only a matter of time b4 some1 on here tells me about how he srinks and smokes a lot during his summer break. Its rubbish! Ok maybe the lad has a couple drinks here and there but I’m sure a lot of footballers do. But smoking? There’s no chance of that. Absolutely no chance! The players get tested all the time…
    Rooney didn’t look overweight to me. Him and anderson have the same build…but that’s not to say the lad is a fat bastard. Thsi is ridiculous!

  16. Fact: United fans generally were pissed off with WR over his want away/new contract manouvres last year.
    Fact: WR when fit and firing on all cylinders is a great player, perhaps one of only two world class English players currently.
    Fact: WR hasn’t had a good start to the season. But the season is two games old.
    Fact: signing of RVP and Kagawa is a bit of a challenge to WR, in that it signals the end of our overdependency on WR. That is no bad thing.
    Fact: He is a player who thrives on a challenge and will almost certainly continue to be an integral part of a successful United side for years to come.

  17. @Pat Rice

    As a few have pointed out, I think you miss the point. It isn’t that Rooney’s crap etc., but that to maintain his high reputation he needs to come back from this injury reinvigorated and not as we’ve seen him in pre-season

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