On the day Sir Alex announced his retirement, another bit of news leaked from Old Trafford – Wayne Rooney had handed in a transfer request.
On any other day, this would have made all the headlines but on this day overriding sentiment was along the lines of “That’s nice. Sir Alex is retiring!!!”
Now that we’re at the acceptance stage of our loss of Fergie (although I appreciate that many are still going through the depression phase) thoughts are now starting to return to the Wayne Rooney saga, the fires of which were stoked yesterday by Rooney’s complete omission from Fergie’s big OT leaving party yesterday and then Fergie’s confirmation that Rooney had indeed handed in a transfer request.
So… what’s with Wayne Rooney? Why does he want to leave this time?
In 2010, Wayne Rooney handed in a transfer request which stunned everyone. Prior to the 2009 season, Rooney had spent a couple of seasons in the shadow of Ronaldo and was often asked to sacrifice his own game to accommodate Ronaldo. However, with the departure of Ronaldo, Rooney was given a much more attacking role.
Rather than roam all over the pitch, it did seem that he had been told to remain in that area directly in front of the opposition goal.
This approach saw Rooney have his most prolific season in terms of goals (34 in 32 appearances) and by the time he handed in his transfer request in the early stages of the 2010-11 season, he was at the height of his powers and held all the cards at the negotiating table.
Rooney has never been held in the same high regard by United fans since.
Personally, I had some sympathy with Rooney’s position at the time. I think that United fans have to bear a few things in mind about the whole thing.
Firstly, Wayne Rooney is not a Red. He’s a Blue. If Rooney had his way, Everton would be in our position domestically and in Europe and he never would have had to leave them in order to fulfill his ambitions. However, he left the team he loves in order to join us and compete for silverware – that has always been his motivation. In short, we were quite happy for ambition to overrule loyalty in 2004 but not so happy when the tables were turned against us in 2010.
Secondly, Wayne Rooney, at the time, was around 24 years old. It is often said that a player reaches his peak at around 26-28. Whatever deal Rooney was to commit to at that stage would take him into that period and so he needed to make absolutely sure that it was the right one for him – that he would be spending his peak years at a club that would be contesting for honours.
At the time, Manchester City were really making a statement in the transfer market – that summer they had spent something in the region of £126 million on players such as Yaya Toure, David Silva and Mario Ballotelli.
By contrast, our transfer activity around 2009-10 amounted to the selling of arguably the best player in the world for £80 million and we watched Carlos Tevez leave us and join City.
We bought Antonio Valencia for around £17 million and we got Michael Owen on a free. The rest of our purchases were all rookie unknowns: Gabriel Obertan, Mame Biram Diouf, Javier Hernandez and Chris Smalling.
Remember also that 2010 saw the height of the Green & Gold campaign, MUST and Andersred doing everything they could to bring down the Glazers and “that” Panorama documentary on the Glazers.
If Rooney was looking at what was going on in the transfer market and what was going on on the wider scene and having his doubts then he was really only echoing our own, if we are absolutely honest.
We simply weren’t competing with City or indeed any of our major rivals in the transfer market and the reasons being put about were clear: The Glazers were bleeding the club dry, the “Ronaldo money” had gone to pay off their debts and Fergie had been left with a few peanuts with which to spend in the transfer market.
I honestly believe that it was this, rather than his own contract, which was Wayne Rooney’s problem.
However, a last minute intervention from the Glazers appears to have settled Rooney’s doubts and he was convinced to stay.
Unfortunately, the damage had been done and Rooney was never fully taken back in by many Reds which is a massive shame.
The main complaint was that Rooney was seen to be questioning the ambition of the most successful club in England but when you’re seeing the likes of Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez leave your team only to be replaced by the likes of Gabriel Obertan and Mame Biram Diouf, you have to admit that maybe, just maybe there’s something wrong and Rooney wasn’t happy.
Anyway. Since then, we’ve had sporadic bursts of brilliance from Rooney but he has never quite matched the heights of the 2009-10 season (although he did score 34 goals again in the 2011-12 season).
This season in particular has been largely disappointing for Rooney. With the arrival of RVP he has again been asked to sacrifice his game and he can be seen on the edge of his own box as much as the edge of the opponent’s box these days.
One of the reasons why Rooney came to United was to play in Europe against the best teams in Europe so when he was benched for the Real Madrid tie that must have hurt even more because this was the first time we had beeb pitted against Real Madrid since signing Rooney.
At the time, Fergie said that it was for “tactical reasons” and that “Rooney was fine with it”. I would suggest that Rooney was far from fine with it and it was that that tipped Rooney back over the edge.
If you’re one of your club’s best players (and Rooney is) and you’re not picked for the biggest games against the biggest teams, you would have to have something wrong with you if you didn’t question your future. If the reasons for his omission were indeed tactical then that in itself would suggest that he’s at the wrong club.
Tactics should involve all the best players and if they don’t then there are clearly players who are surplus to requirements.
Personally, I think that the problem was more to do with Wayne’s conditioning. Rooney has always been a stocky lad and at a younger age, his natural fitness could carry it. At 27, he is starting to look a pound or two too heavy for his own good. The explosive powerhouse of yesteryear is starting to look a little ponderous and Rooney is as likely to go to ground as stand it in a 50/50 challenge these days and whilst he can still ping a 50 yard pass like the best of them there are times when a 5 yard pass escapes him.
All in all, Rooney comes to the negotiating table with no aces up his sleeves this time and the general opinion is that he isn’t quite as irreplaceable and integral to the team as he was in 2010.
There is also the Moyes element now. Rooney and Moyes have history after Moyes sued Rooney for allegations made in his biography a few years ago. Maybe Rooney doesn’t relish a re-union with Moyes. Personally, I think this is a bit childish and certainly unprofessional if that’s the case. Moyes seems to have put the whole thing behind him when Rooney called him to apologise – the issue is history as far as he is concerned.
Whatever happens from here on, it looks like Rooney has a decision to make. I’d hate to see him leave because I still feel that there’s a great player in there but it has become harder to prove this season.
As for the club… well, if we do want to cash in on him then I think they should do the business as soon as the transfer window opens.
Images of Rooney smoking, drinking and pissing in the street whilst on his summer holidays will do little to increase his transfer fee.