How Rooney became bigger than club and country.
It all started with an alleged transfer request. Wayne Rooney felt that Manchester United no longer matched his ambition. It turned out that three hundred grand a week would ease his deep routed anxieties about the clubs direction.
This was unheard of at the time (2013/Fergie time). No, not a player or agent wrangling for a bigger contract, but the idea that someone could hold Manchester United to ransom and get away with it.
Sir Alex Ferguson had an immaculate record for ridding himself of players who got ahead of their station. When Ruud van Nistelrooy told the boss it was him or Ronaldo, it was he who had to leave. When Roy Keane was on the wain Ferguson waisted no time disposing of him. And when David Beckham’s celebrity began to overshadow his performances he was off to Madrid.
Maybe Rooney was the beneficiary of some good timing. Ferguson was about to leave, so too were the remaining survivors of the class of 92. Manchester United’s future was unusually uncertain, and they needed Rooney.
None the less it was a watershed moment. Manchester United, SIR ALEX FERGUSON’S MAN UNITED had been stuck up and there was nothing they could do about it.
Fast-forward to the start of this season and Wayne Rooney now captain of both club and country seemingly plays where he likes. With the exception of Lionel Messi, I can’t think of another player who goes where he likes to get a couple of pointless touches of the ball.
The problem is Rooney is not Messi. His touches do not nessescarily keep him engaged for that moment when he scores his customary goal a game. Unlike Messi, Rooney now seems to spend more time hanging out with his own defenders than he does posing a threat to the opposition’s.
His presence in the midfield last night made Henderson redundant, and at times he played passes and took up positions that Eric Dier could’ve done with ease.
Last night Allardyce stated that Rooney could go where he wanted, and that he wasn’t going to tell Wayne Rooney how to play. The problem is that Rooney isn’t an intelligent footballer, or at least he isn’t an intelligent midfielder.
His natural ability and long range passes give the impression of a clever footballer. However, Rooney has never pulled the strings, not even in his pomp. Sure he could take the game by the scruff of the neck, and terrorise a defence with his power and skill. But his willingness to run made him the perfect work-horse for the likes of Ronaldo and Berbatov.
I am sure Rooney could’ve become a cuter player, but his drive and power meant that his more technical talents were not nurtured. Physically he is not what he once was, and finds himself trying to cover every blade of grass in a less swashbuckling manner. Maybe he’ll adapt his game like Gerrard and Giggs did, but for now he’s in that difficult transition period. Positional purgatory.
So just how did Wayne Rooney manage to play wherever he feels like playing. Well, a lack of options at both club and country has certainly contributed. But I believe that this season is in fact a false dawn. Both Mourinho and Allardyce are playing a very pragmatic PR game as they get a feel for their new teams. They both know the furore that will follow once he is surplus to requirements.
Why do I think this? Well Mourinho’s first press conference hinted at where he sees Rooney playing. Not 6 or 8. And Allardyce’s post match interview last night was underpinned by a tone that this free role would not last forever. The fact Big Sam said that he played deeper than he expected him too hinted that this newly found freedom will be conditional.
Wayne Rooney is a scorer of goals and it’ll be interesting to see if either of these pragmatic managers will ever place faith in him to do so. Enjoy the freedom while you can Wayne, I have a feeling it wont last.