Over the past week, there were a plethora of reports over Rooney’s impending departure from United. Though initially rumour and peddled by tabloids, eventually the Guardian’s Manchester correspondent, Daniel Taylor, put his weight behind it. I was still skeptical, because Taylor also vehemently argued that Vidic would leave – which, as we all know, didn’t happen. Then the BBC ran it as their lead, relying on AP which sourced someone close to Rooney.
Now if you’ve been a football fan long enough, you come to realize the way football reportage works. To put it at it’s nicest, save a few journalists who look at broader pictures (Sid Lowe, Jonathan Wilson), most of them just seek the highest hits. As a result, you take quite literally everything with a pinch of salt.
Anyway, yesterday Fergie gave a press conference about United’s new venture with UNICEF. He shut off all and every Rooney question. Moreover, prior to yesterday, the Man Utd camp has always labelled reports of Rooney wanting out as rubbish.
Today, though, things changed.
After a long time, Fergie addressed questions about a player’s transfer directly (a player of Rooney’s significance anyway). He read out a statement as opposed to taking questions, and stated that Rooney was adamant in wanting to leave. There was a Q&A session afterwards with MUTV as well; a transcript of which you can read here.
At the end of the day, the biggest question on anyone (especially Man Utd fans’ lips) is why? Rooney has never intimated at seeking life elsewhere – in March in fact he seemed to seek a life contract. But an ankle injury against Bayern, a disastrous world cup and extra-marital escapades later it seems he wants life elsewhere.
The broader question here is that at this moment in time there is nothing remotely concrete about why Rooney has sought a transfer. For some, it represents a falling out with the manager. Within this argument too are differences. There’s a concrete belief that after Rooney’s injury against Bayern in the first leg of the CL semi last year, he was rushed back in the second leg. There’s undoubtedly truth in that, and Rooney did exacerbate his injury midway through the first half. Yet, upon repeated requests, Rooney told the bench he wanted to keep going. Ultimately, as United lost, many claimed that keeping Rooney on the pitch when he was a passenger helped accomodate Bayern’s newly-found gravitas in the second half.
A few weeks later, Rooney again played against Sunderland. Poorly. Again, he seemed to be rushed back – but then this is a player who has always maintained a desire to play in every single game, regardless of his fitness levels.
Others, namely Ahsan, argue that it’s a direct result of a disagreement over player and manager with regards to how best to get Rooney back into form. There is a lot to this argument – moreso when you factor in how Rooney claimed when with England how he wasn’t suffering from any ankle injuries whatsoever. That said, falling out though it may have been it’s fairly understandable why Fergie would refrain from playing Rooney over the past few weeks, especially seeing the atrocious form he’s in. But even then, seeing as how Rooney has sought a transfer since August, disagreements over how to get back into form were hardly going to matter. It may have been the final nail in the coffin, though.
Though there can be questions raised over Fergie’s man-management here, I’m still not buying that. Even if, to quote, “Ferguson has a track-record of conflating his own ego with whats best for the club” isn’t far from the truth, Fergie’s been pretty much spot-on whenever he’s clashed with a player (except, as he himself admitted, when it came to Stam). Though this is uncharted territory, as Rooney is a player widely believed to be the future of the club (Ronaldo was too, but everyone knew his heart fluttered at the mention of Madrid – fuck you Figo), and to lose him in such a fashion is debilitating for the club in the short-term, Fergie would be far less likely to be inimical to Rooney.
Conversely, Fergie’s statements about leaving an offer on the table or still leaving doors open to Rooney may add credence to this thesis – since it does seem like a jilted lover trying to surreptitiously get back in their lover’s good graces.
On the more obvious side, it seems like Rooney’s chasing the green. A move to City (who, by not being in the CL would care less about Rooney being cup-tied) on utterly ridiculous wages (upwards of £200,000 p/w) would work for a player who doesn’t seem to be built for football beyond the age of 30. Despite all of Rooney’s badge-kissing, the way he left Everton purports to a character decidedly more pragmatic than loyal. A move to City in his career right now would perfectly suit his financial requirements. United, for whatever they’re worth, will never offer crazy money of that nature to any player – even Rooney. Also, depending on which camp you listen to, City seem far more likely to achieve considerable levels of success in the future than United. If Rooney believes he wants to hedge his bets with City and get a stunning wage packet to boot, it’d be hard to argue against the rationale of that belief – whether in a professional or personal basis.
Maybe Rooney felt frustrated after having to carry the team on his own last year, and after watching the club’s investements this season, decided United were short on ambition. Perhaps he was wooed by the neighbours across, who splashed out on Silva and Toure, amongst others.
I, personally, want to believe it’s because he wants out of England. Even prior to the World Cup, Fleet Street’s pressure on Rooney was bordering on onerous, and after his WC displays it was inevitable that the tabloids would bring out the knives. Airing Rooney’s extra-marital affairs were only going to fuel the distaste in his mouth from the World Cup and the fallout. Why live in a country where despite being the country’s biggest hope, you’re treated worse than some big-titted Big Brother contestant?
In a way this sits better within the time-frame of this whole clusterfuck. If he decided to leave United before the start of the season (though again – pissing on my own foot – he made the decision before the prozzies), it would have little to do with his form on the pitch or Fergie’s indecision when it came to playing Rooney.
Ultimately, there’s too much speculation at the moment (I haven’t helped). The ball’s definitely in Rooney’s court now – the only question is whether he feels the need to dignify the United fans with a response as to why he wants to leave.