Sorry still the hardest word as Rooney and fans move on

April 29, 2011 Tags: Opinion 15 comments

“I understand I made a mistake. When I look at it now how wrong was I?” Rooney told the Guardian in a revealing interview on Wednesday. The recalcitrant Manchester United striker was surprisingly open in the Veltins Arena mixed zone, again stopping short of uttering the S-word but admitting, for the first time, that he made a huge error during what is now being dubbed the ‘October Revolution’.

Since questioning United’s ambition in October Rooney has apologised, with some disingenuity, if fans believed he had not previously said sorry. He hadn’t and in fact, semantically speaking, hasn’t. Later, the striker then went on to express his regret over the affair before this week opening up for the first time. With United heading the Premier League and all but in the European Cup final the 25-year-old former Evertonian would have lost much had he departed for Manchester City in January.

Rooney’s actions, whether driven by his agent Paul Stretford as a negotiating tactic, or tempered in genuine belief, has proven hugely divisive though. Indeed, around 70 per cent of supporters inputting to a United Rant poll in October said Rooney should never play for the club again. How fickle fans are though, with supporters traveling to western Germany loudly singing the player’s name, followed by a rousing chorus of ‘White Pele’.

“I admitted that and I apologised for that and I have wanted to try and prove myself again to the Manchester United fans,” added Rooney, who has now scored 13 goals since the turn of the year.

“I feel I am doing that now. I am 100 per cent committed to this club. It was a long time ago now and hopefully now I am helping this team be successful. It would be a great end to the season with a Champions League final and to win the League.”

Commitment in football is, of course, a very flexible phenomenon. In truth while fans demand loyalty from players, they no longer expect it. In this, Rooney is no different to most players who have passed through Old Trafford’s gates. Easy come, easy go. United is, after all, a cynical club and only the very best are remembered with affection.

Yet the Scouser suffers poor comparison with one-club colleagues Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, whose loyalty to the United cause never wavered. Scholes, famously, hasn’t employed an agent during contract negotiations with the club, let alone hold United to ransom.

Rooney though is smart enough to understand that performances on the pitch, above all, have brought the supporters round. The 25-year-old is not and never will be ‘one of us’, a fan, and those attending United matches will do well to remember it in the future.

In the meantime, Rooney’s transformation from last season’s number nine to this year’s 10 is wholehearted; a well overdue tactical adjustment from Sir Alex Ferguson. The move has brought both the best out of Rooney and enabled the player to enjoy football again. Arguably, for the first time in more than a year, Rooney is able to perform close to his peak without a burning anger.

“Obviously, it’s been a lot different in the second half of the season compared to the first,” added Rooney pertinently.

“I am a lot happier in my life and happier with the way I’m playing, it’s like I’ve been settling down again. I’m very grateful to the fans for supporting me through it and I’m delighted with my form again. I hope I am proving myself through my performances.”

Coupled with the player’s return to form, Rooney is now engaging directly with supporters through Twitter, although the Croxteth-born star is hardly erudite like his colleague Rio Ferdinand. Reportedly advised against joining the site by Stretford, but supported by his wife and Ferdinand, Rooney has engaged in topics as varied as the Royal wedding, his love of Disney’s the Lion King and phone hacking.

Indeed, Rooney now has more than 300,000 followers compared to Ferdinand’s 800,000. While, Ferdinand is naturally gifted when it comes to public relations, Rooney’s global reach is infinitely greater. Witness Cristiano Ronaldo’s 2.6 million followers of his banal, PR driven account.

The risk, of course, with Rooney is that in moments of frustration the far-from-eloquent Rooney will spawn a thousand headlines with an ill thought out comment. In time the media will grow tired of its obsession with Twitter, but for the moment whole articles are written, often with misleading headlines, on the simplest of tweets. Ferdinand’s justifiable criticism of the Champions League semi-final between Real Madrid and Barcelona is a case in point, where the United defender discussed repeated diving in the match. Ferdinand did not “slam” the Spanish giants, nor accuse anybody of cheating, not that the newspapers are prepared to print the truth and not the myth.

In the meantime, Rooney is central to United’s success or failure during the final weeks of the season. United has at most six games – four in the Premier League, two in Europe – and the Scouser will certainly make up for months of drama should he fire the club to an unlikely double.

“I am not surprised at what Wayne is doing,” said the legendary Giggs on Wednesday. “The top players perform when the trophies are about to be handed out. They produce moments of inspiration when it matters.”

If that is the parameter for greatness, now is surely the time for Rooney to prove himself; making up for errors of the past.


john - April 29, 2011 Reply

i think his done enough to earn our 4givness
his scored some spectacular goals for us and him and hernandez have made a superb partnership.

ChrisW - April 29, 2011 Reply

“The 25-year-old is not and never will be ‘one of us’, a fan, and those attending United matches will do well to remember it in the future.”

Sure, he grew up an Everton fan. But Scholes supported Oldham and I don’t think Cantona, Keane, Robson (to name just three United greats) grew up as United fans either.

You’re only giving Rooney this stick because he’s a scouser. And please stop repeating this allegation that he planned to go to City, unless you can produce some evidence.

Ed - April 29, 2011 Reply

ChrisW – Scholes isn’t an Oldham fan, never has been, and has repeatedly said so. Shame you start your comment with a mistake otherwise you might have had a sound point. Cantona, Keane, Robson didn’t release a statement saying they intended to leave the club and that’s a crucial difference.

My point isn’t that Rooney is a Scouser, far from it, but he did leave his boyhood club. Expectations of loyalty should be placed in that context. He was an Everton supporter and didn’t think twice about leaving. He’s not a United fan – one of us – why should we expect more?

As for City.. there is plenty of evidence but nothing I need to repeat here for you nor am I about to name names. But it was certainly negotiated. Believe or not as you will.

ChrisW - April 29, 2011 Reply

Just because Rooney isn’t playng for his boyhood club doesn’t make him a mercenary. He gave his reasons why he didn’t wanted to leave. The whole thing was clumsily handled (by the club too who should have sorted out the contracts in the summer) but I don’t see any reason to doubt Rooney’s sincerity. His concerns were the same ones we all have – we worry that the Glazers aren’t prepared to spend the necessary money to keep United at the top. I’m glad they persuaded him otherwise (and I hope they were telling the truth!)

Rooney’s our best player right now by a long way. He’s one of United best ever (top ten surely). I’ve no reservations whatsoever in shouting Roo-ney! Roo-ney! next time he scores and I seem to be in the majority. For me he’s part of the United family and you don’t keep bringing up embarassing incidents with familly members, do you? Why can’t you just let it go?

Ed - April 29, 2011 Reply

ChrisW – let what go exactly? I’m not really sure what your point is at all, aside from clumsily attempting to put words in my mouth. Who has called Rooney a mercenary? Certainly not this website. But the point that seems to have irked you is that I question Rooney’s loyalty – actually to be more accurate, I question United supporters’ expectations of loyalty. History says I’m right – after all he asked for a move away. That’s on the record, a matter of fact, indisputable. If you don’t like that truth too bad.

ltel - April 29, 2011 Reply

we all know roo was wrong.. even he does

lets draw a line under it

herbie simms - April 29, 2011 Reply

Rooney is a United player and he is giving his 100% to the team. Although he has come through Everton, I have not heard him say that he still supports Everton or that he would like to go back there and play for them in the future. He is a dedicated United player at the moment so lets leave it at that for now.

captainhormone - April 29, 2011 Reply

tbf Herbie thats the best thing you’ve ever said on this site

but you are still an ubercunt tbf

squigels - April 29, 2011 Reply

He’s one of United best ever (top ten surely)

Absolutely not.

bruce thomas - April 29, 2011 Reply

You get the sense that he’s now “got it”. I never thought I’d forgive him, but he’s doing his best short of using the “S” word to put things right on and off the pitch. He’s the one who’s going to win us the trophies so let’s all be united.

harpheeze - April 30, 2011 Reply

forgiven. Our dear team rest on u and other committed man u players. We understand u then, just that ur madness is outrageous. U try something around that again and u are in trouble! We missed u last season, then league nd champs leag is gone. Its true we need good players to replace likes of berba, carrik and gibson.

eddieTheRed - April 30, 2011 Reply

In 2009 Rooney was asked if he thought Messi was Barcelona’s best player – he replied by saying that he thought Messi was part of a great team; and words to effect that the team made Messi the great player and not the other way around.

I feel the same way about Wayne; United makes him a great player; if he didn’t have United’s players around him he would be another Charlie Adam!

Fact is, no player can be appraised in isolation; the greatest players are only as good as the players who play around them; players such as Glenn Hoddle, Matt le Tissier and Steven Gerrard are examples of players who could have been great if only they’d had the courage to move to better clubs with better players who could have brought the best out of them.

Rooney is lucky he made the right choice!

Spudiator - April 30, 2011 Reply

Interesting comments regarding Twitter, I heard you mention it on the podcast, and I think you hit the nail on the head when you said the club should ban players from Tweeting in the immediate aftermath of a match, especially if the result has been subject to controversial decisions. We already saw what can happen in that situation when we knocked Liverpool out of the FA Cup and Ryan Babel was stupid enough to go straight on there and have a dig at Howard Webb. Hopefully that’ll serve as a lesson to all.

Blog Commenter said:Rooney’s our best player right now by a long way. He’s one of United best ever (top ten surely).

Nah, not really. Rooney’s done very well for United undoubtedly, and could eventually become one of United’s all-time greats if he keeps his head down and doesn’t further taint his career with needless outbursts, but to break into United’s top 10 ever players is a pretty tall order given the ferocity of the competition. For me, United’s top 10 ever players (in no particular order) are: Schmeichel, Cantona, Robson, Best, Charlton, Edwards, Law, Keane, Giggs and Scholes. It’s hard to compare who’s the better player for the club when you’re talking about different positions, so the only way to compare is to assess their overall contribution to the club in their time here, as well as fulfilling their potential. On the latter point, Rooney has more work to do, because although he’s been brilliant at times, he hasn’t always lived up to the potential we expected of him when he first signed.

United Rant’s original returning eternal optimist!

Pikey McScum - April 30, 2011 Reply

It’s very simple – aside from the ageing greats in the game, loyalty no longer exists in modern football. I could wax lyrical about why I’ve fallon out of love with the game over the last few years, but as long as players like Rooney do what they’re supposed to i.e. contribute to the success of the club, then I can be content with that. That’s their job, that’s why they’re paid extortionate amounts of money, and (while I personally find it sad that ‘loyalty’ means better wages and contracts now) that’ll do for me.

triggs - April 30, 2011 Reply

The guy’s a cunt. An excellent player, as the last month or so has proved, but he’s a cunt. It’s great that he’s finally come good and we’re clearly a better team when he’s playing and in top form.

I don’t forgive him though. For one he hasn’t apologised. Two, he tried to engineer a move to City. That’s Manchester City, you know? Why are people willing to forgive him for that? Three, anyone who believes what he’s been spouting recently should remind themselves that last spring he said he wanted to stay at the Club for life. By mid-August he’d told the Club he didn’t want to sign a new contract.

Some people on here seem to be as forgiving as Coleen. Do you think he said “How Wrong Was I?” to her?

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