So now we can all go back to our normal lives. We got angry. We kicked and screamed. We felt mugged off. And now.....a feeling of empty hollow with a touch of strange jubilation.
To view the events of this week in chronological order would be a waste of time. Everyone including their Mothers had their say, and eventually Rooney signed his contract...you know?..the one he didn't want.
In short, it was one great big happy domestic mess. Today the Manager and the Boy Wonder posed together in family bliss and all is (sort of) forgiven and forgotten. But I'm yet to hear a fan that represents that picture of bliss. Some fans are still fuming. Others feel dejected. A section wish to punish Rooney with their silence at games. Others say he is no longer "one of us" This family is now officially dysfunctional.
Personally, I do feel bit sick by it all. It's like one of those crass pantomimes that get put on at Christmas...the ones with the mildly sexist/racist jokes that turns your stomach every three minutes..all cheap and poorly acted. It was NAILED ON that Rooney was going. The City link was entirely credible and it seems it was just a matter of time before we saw Carlos Tevez Part 2. But somehow...the pre-emptive strike never came.
I feel Rooney and Stretford had every intention of taking their business elsewhere. The £400k a week on offer was just too good to turn down. Which makes it even more strange that Rooney has remained at United on a deal that is less than half that amount. On Twitter I hammered Rooney for being the epitome of greed. I understand that there's no loyalty in football..not really. But when someone is prepared to trot across a city to our biggest rival, and wear their filthy strip week in week out, rubbing it in our faces like that Argentine does, well it just doesn't sit very well. However, Rooney's statement in reaction to Fergie's orchestra of melancholy at Tuesdays press conference was not entirely untrue. In fact it was fairly accurate. Rooney questioned the future squad (note: not the current squad) and the clubs ambition to win trophies. This is nothing compared to what we've all said about the Glazers and their finances! He also hinted at the possible retirement of Sir Alex being a factor. Again, he is right. We all fear that nasty day when Fergie retires to that great big wine cellar in the Cheshire sky. But the fact remained he was saying to the world that he was leaving Manchester United...and it hurt us like hell!! It was the equivalent of fan rape.
The situation seemed like it could not be rectified. So what happened? Fergie gets everyone in a room and does one of his famous Jedi mind tricks. Just as he did to Eric Cantona post kung fu kick when he chased the King to Paris, sat him down and did his best Yoda impression, leading the Frenchman back to a court house in Croydon. The manager is the master of things like this. And his most hated enemy...the press...has been manipulated into becoming his most powerful weapon in his quest to retain Rooney. It's up there with anything Shakespeare wrote. A majestic tragi-comedy. It appears all Wayne really needed was great big cuddle...and an extra £90k a week..or the equivalent amount to which ONE of Yaya Toure's legs earns every week. It's a bit of a bargain when you look at it like that. If Fergie had really questioned Rooney's desire to wear the shirt then he would have been gone. Or Ruud Van Nistelrooyed as I call it.
Sir Alex is the ultimate chess player. The ultimate politician. The ultimate reverend preacher. He sells United to the world..and to his players. The protector of the faith. He said that "Rooney just needed reminding how big Manchester United are"..in a way that a priest takes confession and dishes out 3 Our Fathers and 4 Hail Marys..giving the member of his flock direction, forgiveness and absolution. Rooney has fallen back in line having well and truly seen the light. A vision of the future burned into his mind by Fergie. And for those jumping on the conspiracy theories, you need to calm down. This situation is not the same as Beckham or Ronaldo. Firstly, the boss wanted shot of Becks, and with Ron we knew he was always going to go to the club of his dreams. Neither of these apply to Rooney's situation. I doubt Wazza has ever dreamed of wearing one of Ricky Hatton's cast off strips!
So now we have to trundle along in a temporary kerfuffle. We're all a bit dazed. A bit confused and punch drunk. But the minute Rooney pulls on that shirt again, and produces the form he had pre World Cup...I get the feeling we will start to forgive a little more freely.
Time is a healer. Trophies cure disease. Rooney's rehabilitation starts today.
Football is without doubt the biggest, most stupid sport in the history of the planet. The unthinkable regularly happens like a London bus timetable. And not just on the pitch, but also behind the scenes.
You probably live and are reading this article on Mars if you haven't yet heard the 'new' Wayne Rooney rumour..you know? The one about him wanting to leave our club. However, just as with his infidelity against his wife was about as secret as Ronaldo's desire to join Real Madrid, this new rumour is anything but....new.
Behind the scenes Rooney and his agent have been playing the same game that many before him have played. Rio Ferdinand did it. Psycho Vidic also did it. Even Roy Keane once did it. Hell! Denis Law even once made demands that made Matt Busby red with anger! And that is come contract talks playing the 'Well I could always leave' card. However, there is a clear difference between Rooney, and all the other great United players of the past. And that is that Roos form and reputation are currently residing in a bin bag. The always smiley Scouser has now replaced that with a permanent grimace. His life is in shreds. He can barely trap a ball. And now he has to go to Fergie and the Glazers and start telling them he thinks he is worth more than £120k a week.
There's a lot of half truths in this whole scenario. Do I think Wayne truly wants to leave? No. Do I think there is a real possibility that he will go. Absolutely yes. People forget how close Rio came to leaving after huge money demands. Many United fans haven't forgotten that and still mention it with venom today. Rooney's backroom team were always going to play this merry-go-round game..the one that Carlos Tevez played with us not so long ago. But with the way the money balance books look at the moment, I think that now in 2010, United have almost no opportunity to say NO to a humongous transfer fee that we once could have denied with ease. Of course, expect in the next few hours the official club statement that will say "Blah blah blah we will not sell Wayne Rooney blah blah" but the truth is that the club lie to us fans all the time...every single day of the week.
So the next question is 'Where will Wayne go?' Well I tell you now as it currently stands it wont be Spain. If Wazza wants to keep his wife happy (with a very sick sister) and he wants to earn the biggest amount of cash he could humanly earn, then there is just ONE CLUB he will go to, and we know who they are. If Wayne's agenda was purely football then I think I wouldn't be writing this article. We would be where we were 12 months ago..with Roo enjoying his football, finally showing the world class qualities we all know he can produce and scoring goals for fun. However, we now live in a world where Rooney is public enemy number one and his football has become a non productive side show. He is making errors with his touch and his positioning that he was when he was 18, and he clearly is a very unhappy individual. I thought he was more thick skinned than all this but I was very very very wrong.
Manchester City will pay the transfer fee that will make the Glazers wet their bed in excited delight. And they will pay the wage that will convince the boy from the council estate that he should just stare at his increasing bank balance daily to quell the noise of hatred coming from his former fans in Red. Shut the gates at Chez Rooney. Ignore our feelings. Have a bit of fun with a few ladies of the night. Read Ashley Cole's autobiography. All these things will protect him from this huge decision's ramifications. He will earn 2...3....maybe £400k a week. He could name his price. Even for a footballer it would be like winning the lottery of all lotteries. And at the moment he is vulnerable to such advances...just as much as United are vulnerable to anyone who has any cash they could chuck our way.
As it stands, MUFC are no longer a player in the big money market. Yes we probably could move a few things around and wheel and deal, and bring in the odd excellent player. The £30m spent on Smalling, Chich and Bebe shows that there is some sort of cash in the coffers, hidden under the couch. But we will not see us competing for the very best players. If we were, we would have stolen David Villa a year ago. We would have wrapped up Benzema long before Madrid ever even thought about him. We would have signed David Silva before he even knew what Eastlands was. But the truth is we don't have the clout. Yes we're the 'Biggest club in the World' dot com. But when it comes to brass tax, if you are a marquee player, or even a potential marquee player like Mesut Ozil or David Silva, you will sit back..listen to the highest offer, and then equate it to whether you could win trophies at said 'best offer' club. City, Madrid, Barca, Chelsea...damn even debt free Liverpool can all potentially offer bigger riches than Manchester United will be able to in the next few years. The pull of playing for Sir Alex Ferguson will soon also be gone. Sign for a club so much in debt that when they make a record turnover they still make a loss deep in the tens of millions? If I was Wayne Rooney these things and facts would go through my defused mind at the minute.
So just as Tevez thought it would be great to leave a club that just won the Premier League three times in a row for a team with literally more oil than most of Arabia, I think the Evertonian lad will be tempted by the same wares. Why should he be different to the Argentinian?? Cos hes English? Rubbish quasi-thinking. I'm sure the part of his ego that thought he would never get caught with his pants down will probably take the reins of decision making once it comes to crunch time. Not for a minute do I think Fergie and Rooney have fallen out...no way. But Sir Alex has zero control on monetary matters at MUFC anymore..as much as we would all like to pretend that its still the year 1996. And Rooney's advisers will do exactly what Kia Joorabchian did, and that is advise his brainless client that 'maybe it's time for a move..you know lad that football is such a limited career' Wayne Rooney will sign for Manchester City because it will be even harder to actually sign for Manchester United. Do you think Wayne looks at the money elsewhere, seeing all the uber players joining the likes of City and that he doesn't think...'Id like a piece of that.' Do you think he looks at United's recent signings and that he thinks we have the same ambition and potential as Madrid or City? Do you think he thinks the Glazers are good owners? Do you think he may smell a ship sinking and that he's got the keys to a speedboat to paradise? None of us could ever have predicted this position, but this is reality and this is where we and Roo sit...on the edge of a cliff watching the Blue ship sail off into the distance. All we can do is pray is that that ship has great big hole that will make it sink...but it's looking more and more like a cast-iron battleship everyday!
If you had told my United loving family in 1968 as The Babes paraded the European Cup to all, that they would be watching 2nd division football in just a few short years, they would have told you with the same confidence that we have that its IMPOSSIBLE for such a fall in grace. But I always believe pride comes before a fall. If we batten down the hatches now, throw all the non believers off the cliff a la Rooney, and concentrate on the Chicharitos, and Rafaels, and Cleverleys in our ranks...we may...WE MAY....just surprise the superstars of Man City and their piers. Its time to take stock. Its time for a new direction.
We love Manchester United. No player...no damn owner...will ever change that. We could be playing lower division football and we would still sign the same songs that we do today and yesterday. The heart of Man Utd belongs to us...and not Rooney, and not Tevez, and not the Glazers. Adversity may be looking us in the eye, but we will spit in it. We may be about to take a huge emotional pummelling, but as we fall to the canvas all bloody and broken, we will look up at our detractors and enemies...and we will laugh at them. Yes the joke will be on us, but we are galvanised by history. Things may be about to get ugly...but that's life. The bookies now have Roo at 1/6 to leave..that's incredibly short odds, with only 7/2 to stay. The wheels have started to turn. If he stays we will rejoice. But if he goes we will be ready to roll up our sleeves and we will build again.
United do indeed have leaders throughout the team so does it really matter who wears that big 'C' on his arm, and gets to lift the silverwear?
To me at least, the answer is yes. And it has a two fold explanation to it. One part is historical and one part is practical, but neither has anything to do with common sense:
When I was a boy (violins start to play) the captain of Manchester United Football Club was Bryan Robson. He was heroic. A leader. A man's man. He led the team on the pitch and was the symbol of the club off it. While Liverpool scooped up title after title we all just gave thanks that we had the best captain on the planet. It mattered to us. Since then we've seen real United icons wear the armband. Since 1982, United have only had FIVE captains. That is an amazing stat in modern football. Robbo, Bruce, Cantona, Keano..and of course Red Nev. I understand that there is a modern slant on the captaincy, as to 'who gives a toss who wears it'...but to me it still represents something..
Which leads me to Nemanja Vidic now leading the team out.
Don't get me wrong. I have great respect for Vida. The man leads by example. Smashing defenders with the efficiency of a Jaap Stam and showing the bravery of a warrior. But in my opinion the guy should not be captain and that is simply because he does not skipper the side when Rio plays. Ferdinand does that job when he starts...as would Neville. I totally get Fergie's reasons for appointing Vida but my opinion still stands true..that the guy who is actually running the show for the team on the pitch deserves 'THE HONOUR' of wearing that armband...and it is an honour to captain Man Utd.
The Valencia game highlighted all this to me like a beacon! Vidic lead the team out, yet Rio lead the team on the pitch. I would rather there was a hierarchy to the captaincy rather than this 'oh he plays the most so he should have it'... I think that's crass. Those who purely lean on the side of common sense will say "but surely its better to have a stable captain", but I say "surely its better to have the RIGHT captain"..you know! The one who actually does the job for 90 minutes!
Ultimately, I don't think any of this will effect results, so I see why some United fans think its some negative tirade against Vidic or what not. But the only reason why I raise the subject is that I view that strip of material as being representative of the history of my football club. You don't just get it cos you play the most...otherwise we would have had Ronaldo as captain not so long ago. He played the most...why not have him as captain every week? In the future, if we are lucky enough to see United lift more silverwear in our lives, I want the real skipper on the pitch to be the lucky guy who gets to be immortalized in all those pictures, lifting the cups, that we look back on over and over again. Not just a guy who was the fittest or the most regular pick.
To some of us die hards, the footnotes in history interest us.
(ps. before anyone comments and gets upset that I haven't mentioned our wonderful smash and grab in Spain last night, as I've said before, I try not to do match reports. Last night was a great European victory at a stadium we thought we would struggle at. The manager got his tactics spot on...and that's why in Sir Alex we trust)
We are yet to set foot in the month of October, yet it's already feeling like an incredibly emotional season. After last minute muggings on Merseyside, disappointment in West London, a borderline farce against the champions of Scotland, and a huge opportunity lost against Bolton, I'm not sure how any of our hearts are gonna take all this as the games come thick and fast!
Three wins and three draws is by no means the worst start in the world. That is only 6pts off the maximum we could have achieved so far. But there is a niggling feeling that there's been a certain level of under achievement happening in front of our eyes. We've always been slow starters. That is the United norm. But the surrendering of late goals, and a lack of potency at times at the other end of the pitch have raised unusual question marks.
The biggest blot of course is against Rooney. His form is shot and I guess we all know why. After the revelations of his not-so-private life I was quick to jump to his defence. Not in an expected showing of blind loyalty, but because I really felt that he would suck it up and stick two fingers to the sky at his detractors on the pitch. However....I was wrong. I'd say Wayne is operating at maybe 50% of his powers at the mo. It shows in his body language and his facial expression. I think he has a mountain to climb this season as he tries to sort out his life off the pitch. How reliable he will truly be to the cause of the team in the immediate future is now fully up for debate.
But we do have options...
The overall form of Dimitar Berbatov has been pleasing (though he went missing at the Reebok) and it looks like Kiko Macheda will feature this season more than last. But it's Michael Owen that has got my attention. I think most forget that before his season was cut short by the most dodgy of pitches at Wembley, that the former Scouse lynch pin was in a great vein of form. Had we had him available for the rest of the season post Carling Cup last year, would he have made a difference? We will never know but in my opinion it would have been a fourth straight championship with him fit, especially after Rooney's ankle injury against Bayern.
Owen now has 3 goals in less than three halves of football. His goal against Bolton was the sort of opportunism that we have sorely lacked so far this season. With our style of play it's always very hard to think of how you accommodate a player like him, but maybe us having to diversify our formation to fit him in may not be a bad thing. Last year, teams worked us out at times. We were very 'Rooney heavy'. We got battered in several ties, that in previous years would not have happened. This year we have different challenges. We are now 'Rooney-lite' and it appears we need to find more goals from somewhere within. Berba and Nani may well score substantially more than last season, but I really think that Owen is the key. He is the predator in our squad. The one player whose business is only about scoring. He's not going to get involved in other areas of the pitch as all our other strikers will do. We have to utilise and arm his weaponry NOW cos we cant wait for Wazza to get his head together. Of course Chicharito is also an option to Sir Alex, but I think it would be unfair to burden the boy at such an early stage of his career. Slowly but surely for his development. He will play his part this year.
Valencia will be a tough challenge. It's true that they are not a team with a David Villa or Silva anymore, but a trip to Spain is always tough and they currently lead the very early La Liga table. But remember what Michael Owen did in Wolfsburg last year? Should he be given the opportunity at The Mestalla he may well just do it again.
So it's mixed emotions so far, but when have United ever done ANYTHING easy? We have a position in the league that we would have taken a month ago, and we only have to glance west to the shore where Liverpool exist to see what staring the relegation zone of the league looks like. The key to success in the next few weeks could come from a player that cost us nothing, and quite possibly the return of two midfield crocks in Anderson and Hargreaves. You cant help but think United need some sort of inspiration, and it could well come from the most unlikeliest of sources.
Sometimes it's the unfashionable that really kick start your season.
It would be very easy to just go off on one now about last nights game. There is nothing worse than seeing a half-arsed team selection before kick off to then witness a half-arsed team display over ninety notoriously dull minutes. It was predictable at 1930, and the prophecy was true come 2145.
We've now already drawn three matches this season. It is still very early days but I think most United fans are starting to get edgy after surrendering points at both Fulham and Everton, and now...and worst of all for me personally...a drab, lifeless performance at home against a 'functional' Rangers side, in a match that will only be remembered as the game that Tony Valencia tragically snapped his leg in half.
As many know, I am the whole hearted advocate of Sir Alex, and yes there are many of us. He doesn't often get it wrong but he dropped the ball last night. To make TEN changes from the previous line up and not even have your form players (Berba, Nani, Vidic, etc) on the bench smacks of some ill planning and preparation. When I saw the team sheet before the game last night I immediate thought Fergie was playing a poker style bluffing game, whilst knowing he didn't hold much in his hand. We played two full backs who have had zero game time recently. We played a brand new centre back pairing..one playing his first game in months and one making his European debut. We played two central midfielders who don't have a trick between them (no matter how hard they work) We played Park in a wingers role, one that isn't really his style in a midfield 4. And we played a brand new strike partnership, again one making his European bow and one coming back from the most almighty of personal scandal.
Rangers must have killed themselves laughing when they saw all that! (I must say I have no problem with the way the Scots set themselves up on the night..parking the bus in front of the goals. What did we really expect??!)
And all this against a manager who knows Sir Alex inside out..a man with a bottomless pit of knowledge on us. The score was written before a ball was even kicked.
On other nights, United would have struggled through, put a batten charge on for the last ten, and got a goal or two. But with zero invention, and an empty vat of creativity, that team was never gonna prevail. I expect better of our manager. I know his strengths and his minuscule weaknesses. His foresight is normally invaluable. Yet he put out a Carling Cup line up for what is a must win game...a home match in your opening game of The Champions League. Ive already seen United fans say oh well so what we will still walk the group. That is a stupid thought. These same fans were saying we would thrash Rangers as well last night. We have to find that happy ground between arrogance (which comes from following the biggest club in the world) and complacency (which again comes from following the biggest club in the world) Its a trick to stay between these two goalposts. Yet as the fans fall over the line on one hand, the team falls over the line on the other side. It worries me...it always worries me.
So after months of us all praying that Dimitar Berbatov finds some form which he has, we decide to give him the night off! Same can be said for Nani. All eyes look forward to Liverpool now. The beauty of football is that despite 'only being as good as your last game' there's always the challenge of a new opponent around the corner. United..and Ferguson..need to start slipping through the gears soon. History dictates that we are always slow starters, but one year that wont be an excuse and we will be out of the reckoning before we can blink
Now is a time for action
PS.. all the best to Tony Valencia. Brought back horrible memories of Alan Smith and David Buust. Lets hope for a full recovery for the lad.
So the 'revelations', which most of us knew back in April, have finally been splurged out by the gutter press for their rabid circulation to devour and choke upon in a glutinous feeding frenzy.
Yes, Wayne Rooney has been with a lady of the night (allegedly COUGH)
This of course makes him a very very bad man in many peoples eyes..because it has never ever been known that a man 'hire' a woman to take part in his own fantasy bed Olympics, and it has never ever happened to any other footballer in the history of the world...
Wazza has been a proper fool...yes. We are ALL agreed on that. Wayne will get a proper roasting from his wife, family and Sir Alex (not necessarily in that order) And one day he will have to look his son in the eye and say "I cheated on your Mother while she was carrying you in her womb".....none of it makes pretty reading does it?
But as far as United fans are concerned: 'How and why do we actually care about this?'
Now I used to buy the Red Tops when I was a teenager. A bit of slap and tickle, some decent sports coverage and the odd story about aliens, cats up trees, blah blah blah. It was 'daily light entertainment' Then somewhere in the 90s it became celebrity obsessed. First Princess Diana, then Michael Jackson, then all the politicians, and somewhere along the line a 'hotel roasting' by some footballers made it as good copy for headlines.
Then I stopped buying those papers.
With footballers private lives...I get why people are interested. These guys are this generations' film stars...dripping in diamonds and bling. Whereas I had four TV channels, posters on my wall and attending matches for my football fix as a kid, today they have 24 hr access to these superstars via Twitter, Facebook, Google, Sky TV and the rest. Saturation has been met. A huge part of the population actually believe they have some 'connection' with these people...and therefore they....'care'
This is where the murky line starts to provoke me.
I'm not particularly old skool. I'm technology savvy. I have an uber smartphone. I write a blog. But it will always deeply confuse me that despite the way the celebrity world works why Joe Bloggs in the street thinks that he and his wife and their kids and their next door neighbours need worry about who Wayne Rooney is doing the fandango with.
Many will say "but I'm interested cos he plays for my club..its my right to be interested!' To that I say OK..but what actually makes a generation of people sit up and judge a man that they really do not know? Quasi-morals? Yes. Bloody mindedness? More likely. Gossip mongering? Absolutely.
Others will say "But we ALL took an interest when JT and Cashley went on the scandal carousel..Roo deserves everything he gets!" Once again there is credence in this. But nothing is black or white is it?? Mr John Terry did actually have an affair with the (former yes) girlfriend of an England team mate. That makes it a football matter in my honest opinion. Whereas Rooney's situation at this present time appears only to be a private and family matter. Is that inter-club bias? I wont say no to that. But for me there is a line in the sand between the two episodes.
I'm not gonna defend Rooney. The boy is an idiot. But as a football fan first, and someone that despises all that celebrity nonsense, I have no actual interest in the Rooney story. Its away from United. His private life does NOT belong to us. You learn facts like these as you grow up and mature. Id have once gobbled this whole story up as a teen! It would have torn my yet undeveloped moral fibre to pieces! I would have been pontificating to whoever would listen about how he had shamed the badge. But the truth is if it doesn't hurt his form...then I really couldn't give a toss.
Every man and woman has to answer their own demons eventually...and I say that in a 100% non religious way. What goes around comes around. Sometimes we are good, and other times we shame ourselves. This is the place where Rooney is now. The last thing he needs is us to judge him as well..a bloke we will never know. I'm sure he is doing all of that himself. A multi millionaire he may be. But forgiveness is not something you can buy. And neither is redemption.
I for one have nothing to forgive Wayne Rooney for. So I will cheer the boy on at Goodison next weekend. Our opponents will be (rightfully) throwing ten tonnes of stick at the lad in the coming weeks. We've got to be partisan and chuck it right back.
In a surprise move over the last few days, United starlet Tom Cleverley has been sent out on loan to get some vital experience under his belt.
After comments from both manager and player regarding Tom's position in the squad this season, it was felt that he would remain at the club and fight for a midfield starting position. However, with the blinding form of Paul Scholes, the return to fitness of Anderson, and the presence of Carrick, Fletcher, Giggs and Gibson, it was felt that it would be better for Cleverley to get some short term action out of the United reserve set up.
Personally I'm disappointed to see Cleverley go, but I thoroughly see the reasoning. I just don't think the reserve league is a place to get young talent ready for playing big time Premier League football, and I think the loan system is the best way forward in this area. However, for this move to be a success we have to hope that Wigan actually play the lad. I remember all too well when Newcastle took Giuseppe Rossi from us, only to let him warm their North Sea wind frozen bench, when he could have been on ours.
With the possible transfer of Charles NZogbia away from the club, there should be ample opportunity for Cleverley to get the vital Premier League experience he needs and a good solid run in the starting line up
I wish Tom all the best on his loan move and hope to see him in a United shirt very very soon.
Manchester United fan since the age of 9 when he saw Norman Whiteside curl the ball into a Wembley goal in the dying minutes.
He is an Old Trafford season ticket holder in the North Stand Tier 3...and cried tears of joy, on his knees with the many in Moscow.
Rob is a contributing author/editor at Man Utd blogzine 'The Faithful'