Wayne Rooney: Why I Don't Want Manchester United's Reject At Arsenal...
I spent a glorious month in the Iberian Peninsula in the summer of 2004.
Sun, sea, cheap booze and most importantly football in a welcoming place. Having been to four International tournaments following England, the European Championship in Portugal was my most enjoyable.
Why? Well obviously ice-cold bottles of Sagres at 90 pence a bottle in the square in the northern town of Aveiro where we made our base (and camped for two quid a day) was one reason.
But the main reason was a certain Wayne Rooney.
At 18 years of age, not too much was expected of him, despite his cracking introduction into Premier League in the 18 months preceding the competition. Not the least the audacious goal he scored against Sol Campbell and David Seaman that announced his arrival in October 2002.
Yet by the end of those four memorable weeks footballing luminaries such as Pele were lauding him. Sir Alex Ferguson put his money where his mouth was and spent 30 million to buy him in the August, after a not too shabby 15 goals in 67 games for Everton.
He was the most wanted player in European football and promised a future so bright it promised to eclipse the myriad of the great Manchester United players of the past. He was compared at times to the immortal Duncan Edwards for his strength, George Best for his technique, Bobby Charlton for his shooting ability and Denis Law for his finishing.England waited for a genuine world-class player to emerge and Manchester United fans simply licked their lips.
Nine years later, if you looked at the stats it would suggest that his career has been a success: 141 goals in 278 games for the Red Devils and 35 goals in 81 appearances for England, five League titles, a Champions League, two League Cups and the FIFA Club World Cup point to a career that has been largely fulfilled.
As an Arsenal fan if you had told me that Arsene Wenger would buy Rooney instead of United in 2004 - after falling off my seat in shock that he had contemplated even spending such an amount – I would have been overjoyed.
There has been talk that Rooney is a target for the Gunners this week.
Whether the story had been released by his agents, desperate to escape a new manager he actually sued depends on how sceptical you are. Rooney had accused Moyes of leaking his reasons for leaving the Toffees. Moyes took offence and sued him for libel. He won, with Rooney having to pay ‘substantial damages’ to a furious Moyes.
For me, I couldn’t think of anything worse than to have Rooney sign for Arsenal this summer. Firstly, in purely football terms his lifestyle jars alarmingly with the Wenger ethos of early nights and boiled broccoli.
Where you play such a man is also a problem. Over the last few years he has dropped deeper and deeper first as a conduit for a far more egotistical but prolific Ronaldo, and this season for RvP. In a way it is a credit to Rooney's ego-less ‘team first’ attitude.
Another way you could look at it is that he has stopped caring.
Let me clarify. Of course he cares. To play for Manchester United at any level you have to care. But he doesn’t look like he cares as much anymore. And that is the problem. Has his desire, that passion that brought him a hat-trick on his CL debut been permanently sated by his reported 200k a week?
An old-school United fan I know has finally lost patience with a player who first annoyed the fans by his clumsy attempt to hold Old Trafford to ransom over his wage demands in October 2011. It seems many hardcore supporters have never forgiven him for his leveraging a whacking great pay rise out of their club through the flimsy pretence of squad concerns.
One of many low points over the last few months – oh the irony for him in a title winning side – was Fergie dropping him to the bench for their biggest game of the season at Old Trafford in their CL 2nd round game against Real Madrid.
The decision hurt Rooney more than he let on. But this time ‘the last street footballer’ didn’t use the snub as motivation to fire him into proving his boss wrong. Instead he has looked listless and disinterested in his sporadic appearances since, culminating in handing a transfer request ahead of Fergie’s farewell.Unsurprisingly, the Govan legend washed his hands of him dropping him from the squad for his valedictory game Old Trafford game against Swansea City.
Where he would fit in the Arsenal team is another question. With the 4-2-3-1 system so successfully employed toward the back end of the season – certainly since our defeat against those perennial Europa League challengers from N17 at the start of March - do you use him as an out and out forward ala Giroud or Podolski (on occasions) or play him as one of the midfield triumvirate?
I for one wouldn’t drop Cazorla or Walcott for him, and do we need a ‘false nine’ anyway? After watching Dennis Bergkamp for 11 years the 2013 Rooney vintage is no Dutch master.
Which is sad. I love the fact he used to adore football. I think it was fantastic that he would play with his mates until it got dark in the streets around his mum and dads small terraced house after training with Everton’s first team.
The fact he has a tattoo that reads, ‘just enough education to perform’ should be a paean to working class kids failed by the system managing to succeed in life – rather than a homage to the ignorance and boorish behaviour that seems to envelop him at the moment.
He has a turbulent personal life that veers from light-hearted soap opera to a darker, more sinister aspect. Harley Street hair transplants, aping Hollywood celebs by giving his kids unusual names, allegedly paying bell boys 200 quid to buy a packet of fags for him, and a contretemps with the Catholic Church regarding wedding plans, may raise a smile, or a rueful shake of the head.
Controversies with previous agents, allegations of marital infidelities and assignations with prostitutes less so.
Whatever your view Sir Alex Ferguson was quoted as saying that Rooney’s form had struggled over the last couple of years due to the intense scrutiny caused by his behaviour real or otherwise.
The unhappy fact is that Wayne Rooney has lost his way. He has fallen out of love with football. His body language looks tired and fed up. A move could rejuvenate his career and get his mojo going again. After all he is still only 27. A time when footballers haven’t even reached their peak. Bobby Charlton hadn’t lifted the European Cup at that age and Pele hadn’t won the World Cup in Mexico City either. It seems a move away from Manchester for Wayne Mark Rooney would do him the world of good.
As someone who marvelled at his four goals in Portugal, his sheer force of presence and the obvious joy he displayed at playing football – on a pavement in Toxteth or The Stadium of Light in Lisbon made no difference to him – playing for another football club at this crucial stage of his career would be the ideal scenario. I for one would wish him well if he re-invented his career at a continental powerhouse.
Just don’t move to Arsenal please Wazza. No-one wants you there.