Wayne Rooney, now there’s a man who divides opinion…
On one hand, there is the club captain, the on-field leader who bleeds for the cause, key to the club’s many triumphs of the past 12 years. On the other hand is a player who is a shadow of his former self, a man who claims to have little to prove but is riding on his reputation of days gone by rather than his current form.
It’s a debate which has roared on for some time now, since his below-par performances during the LVG era (let’s face it though, not many have emerged from that with much credit), to his selection in England’s Euro 2016 failure and now to United’s new era, the one which promises so much.
The Mourinho era has started with a bang. A convincing 3-1 win over Bournemouth had glimpses of what may be to come but it was a number of comments afterwards which interested me.
“He’s finished” was a popular phrase. “Sell him now” said another. “Worst player on the pitch”…. They kept on coming. And this despite the fact that Rooney scored United’s second of the afternoon, and his 246th for the club putting him only three goals shy of Sir Bobby Charlton’s club goal scoring record.
And then came the most staggering of all, a poll ran on our own Twitter page which enraged me, merely for the result. The question? “If you had to sell one, who would it be? Wayne Rooney or Marouane Fellaini?” Of course, Fellaini came out on top, with 65% of the vote. However, it was the 35% which really made me question our fanbase. The poll attracted 2,384 votes, which meant that 835 of you would rather see a man who has been utterly terrible in his three years at the club in a Manchester United shirt than a man who has scored 246 goals, won five Premier League titles, one Champions League, one World Club Cup, two League Cups and an FA Cup in his 12 years at the club.
One good game against Bournemouth does not merit this kind of reaction. We all know that Fellaini doesn’t belong in a United shirt. He personifies the club’s least successful period of the Premier League era.
As for Rooney, is he faultless? No. Is he the player he was? No, of course not. However, players adapt with age. LVG trialed Rooney in a midfield role towards the end of last season, as did Roy Hodgson for England in the summer. For me, Rooney looked like this is a role he could adapt do quite swiftly. However, that was soon put to bed when Jose Mourinho stated upon his arrival that he does not see his captain as a number 8 or a number 6, but a number 10. Against Bournemouth, whether you like it or not, it worked. Yes, he misplaced passes, lost control of the ball a little too often for his liking, but it still worked. His mere presence created issues for the opposition. Ok, we all know he wasn’t superb, as stated by Danny Murphy on Match Of The Day, but it showed early promise.
And then it got me thinking about other former captains. Were they subjected to the same level of abuse as they came to the twilight of their careers. Bryan Robson, Roy Keane, Gary Neville, Nemanja Vidic, Ryan Giggs? No, of course they didn’t. Neville and Vidic in particular were nowhere near the type of player they were in their latter years as they were in their peak, but did we shout and scream for the club to sell them? Of course not. In fact, if I remember rightly, there wasn’t many a fan that was too thrilled when Vidic decided to leave the club to join Inter Milan.
Giggs is a fantastic example. As he reached his early to mid-thirties, can anyone claim he was anywhere near the same player he was in his twenties? The mazy runs were gone, the electric pace had disappeared. What we were left with was still an excellent player, although one of a completely different mould. Paul Scholes was the same.
The fact is, it has become fashionable to criticise Wayne Rooney. In an era where every game can be scrutinised right down to the last little detail, it is easy to find fault within his game, more so than ever before with the amount of cameras, slow motion replays and statistics at our disposal. The same can be said of any player of course, but Rooney seems to be getting the brunt of it.
Hence the question after Sunday’s game, to which Rooney responded that he doesn’t have anything to prove to anyone, a comment which angered many. I saw one fan question how Rooney doesn’t have anything to prove, yet Zlatan does. Well, simply put, Zlatan does have something to prove. He’s only just joined the club. Granted, it isn’t going to tarnish his career if he was to fail (which he won’t, I know), but he does have to prove his worth to Manchester United as a club. Rooney, after everything he has achieved at Old Trafford, should be afforded the luxury of not having to prove himself to the fans. We wouldn’t have expected Giggs, or Scholes, or the many more that were pivotal to United’s success over the last 25 years or so to have to prove their worth, so why should we with Wayne?
Let me get this straight, Wayne Rooney could still land a club at the very highest level, and I would thoroughly expect the likes of Chelsea or Manchester City to by vying for his signature if the minority were to get their way. And, on that note, I’ll end on this…just be careful what you wish for…