Gary Neville might have said it best: football is a cynical industry, and Manchester United is a cynical club. It’s something about the bravado and thirst for success. Past greats are celebrated, but the club moves on. Better players than Wayne Rooney have left Old Trafford; better loved players too. Gone, not forgotten, but with a focus shifted quickly. The king is dead; long live the king. Yet, history will also record the new Evertonian as one of the finest to have played for the club.
To go, or not to go that is now the question. From the moment Jose Mourinho called time on Wayne Rooney’s special privileges at Manchester United the clock began ticking on the Scouser’s Old Trafford career. The inevitable is nigh. Now the club, although not publicly, is pushing Rooney towards a more rapid exit than previously imagined. China calls; will Rooney pick up?
Picture the scene. Sir Alex Ferguson at his masterful best. Bracketed by journalists anticipating Manchester United’s October 2010 Champions League encounter with Bursaspor, the Scot feigned shock and disgust at Wayne Rooney’s overnight accusation that United, then 132-years-strong, 18-times English league champions, and three times kings of Europe, lacked the ambition to house Rooney’s talents. Ferguson was pitch-perfect in the rejoinder; Rooney’s agent, Paul Stretford, held firm that it was time to move on. Manchester City called with the big bucks Rooney had always craved. In the end the Reds bowed to Rooney’s demands and the former Evertonian was awarded the first of two massive contracts in the past six years. But what if the Scouser had moved on…
“And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to depart into hell.”
Rant doesn’t often get biblical, but in a summer of tough decisions for Manchester United, it is true that success sometimes necessitates sacrifice. Trimming the fat can be the price of moving forward, making tough calls for the betterment and progression of a club. United might need to address the elephant in the room – Wayne Rooney is the hand that might need to be severed for the body to survive.
For the first time in what feels like a generation there are plenty of options in Manchester United’s attack. Such was the depth of David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal’s mediocrity that each was an architect of some of the most boring football seen at Old Trafford in decades. It is now José Mourinho’s time and the impression is already strong that he will not stand for it. Fun is returning to the red side of Manchester.
Old Trafford will bounce to the chant of “José Mourinho” for the next three seasons, with the Portuguese finally taking control of the club he has always wanted to manage. Mourinho might not host his first press conference until July, but the 53-year-old’s work is underway within a week of his managerial announcement. And there is plenty of work to do.
There was just a hint of entitlement in the statement. Understandable, perhaps, from a player who has recently become his nation’s record goalscorer; one standing on the verge of achieving a similar feat at club level. Yet, in declaring that he doesn’t ‘need to fight for his place’ Wayne Rooney, a 30-year-old suffering the third year of diminishing returns, has pushed that envelope a little far. After all, there are now better players in almost every position Rooney might covet, for club and country. It is a critical juncture for a fading star.
No other player has epitomised Louis van Gaal’s second season at United quite like his captain. The Dutchman’s side staggered through the latter part of 2015, with December becoming statistically the worst month in the club’s long history. And, much to the chagrin of United’s support at large, the manager has simply refused to go away. Much of that analysis can be directly applied to Wayne Rooney. Read More
The modern football bubble lives week-to-week. More often than not opinion changes week-to-week as well. Take Wayne Rooney, who ended 2015 in dire form, and has begun 2016 on a scoring streak. The striker has five goals in four games, including two penalties, but some seem to have forgotten the player’s struggle throughout the previous year. Burst of form aside, the larger sample size of yesteryear has a greater bearing on our assessment of the player than four games ever could. Read More
Louis Van Gaal has been criticized of late for his insistence on possession-based tactics. Manchester United fans have become disenchanted by the perception of dull football and some have even taken to accusing Van Gaal of having lost touch with the fanbase. Read More