Hello everyone, it’s been far too long since I did the Monday morning column. But with anything you know you’re slacking with once you stop it’s really hard to get it going. So it’s back today and I’m making a commitment to get it out every week. It’ll go out on MailChimp (to our mailing list) and not the MUFCLatest Forum first, then it’ll be posted on the website later in the day.
So I think a lot has likely changed since I last wrote. Not sure where to begin. Maybe I’ll start with Wayne Rooney. We’ve a couple of international captains within our ranks at Manchester United, Rooney is one, Bastian Schweinsteiger the other. As Rooney closes down the records of Denis Law and Bobby Charlton there’s a lot of debate as whether Rooney will be remembered as a legend, or not. To answer this we have to start with the definition of legend, which is also likely to have people arguing. But TO ME a club legend should be someone who has done something above and beyond, give himself to the club, been successful (relative to his period at the club) and connected with the fans. It goes without saying a club legend should be one of the better, if not the best player at a club.
So where does Wayne Rooney fit into that? He’ll likely retire as captain, record scorer for England and record scorer for Manchester United, have a trophy cabinet eclipsed only by Giggs and Scholes but there’s still doubt over whether he can be a club legend. He ticks the boxes for best player at one time or another, he ticks the box for successful, but has he truly given himself to the club or connected with the fans? That’s where he’s falling short right now. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was a pretty limited centre forward, in the grand scheme of things. 4th choice in ’99, which is why he came off the bench to score THAT goal. But it wasn’t the goal in ’99 that solidified his ‘20 Legend’ status. It was his reciprocation of the love given by the fans. He seemed genuinely happy to play for us. He connected with the Stretford End and he’ll always be welcomed. Contrast that to our captain on the night in Barcelona, May 1999. Peter Schmeichel. The great Dane was undoubtedly the best goalkeeper in the world at the time. Captain for the final, in what would be his final game, before he moves to Portugal and has a well deserved break to see out the last year or two of his career. IF the chapter ended with him in Lisbon, there’s no problem. Legend status guaranteed. But it didn’t end there. He came back to the Premier League, that he couldn’t handle the pace of and played for Aston Villa, and MANCHESTER CITY! I dare you to defend that. There’s resentment. We’ve forgiven but we’ve not forgot. So far from being the obvious legend that he probably should have been, when Schmeichel’s name is mentioned around the pubs of Manchester before a game, people’s faces screw up and they’re conflicted.
Wayne Rooney is the same. Some people go for the obvious. The TWO transfer requests. But I don’t. I’ll tell you why. His first transfer request, in 2010, he questioned the club’s ambition. Errr so did we. We sold the best player in the world, fresh from winning the Balon d’Or, Cristiano Ronaldo for a world record £80m and we replaced him with Gabriel Obertan, Tony Valencia and Michael Owen on a free transfer. Glazernomics were hitting hard. Rooney was absolutely correct in questioning the clubs ambition. So I give him a pass on that.
The second one is far more complex. Fergie knew he was coming to the end of his reign, I think he knew Rooney was coming to the end of his usefulness as a player, he doesn’t look like he looks after himself, evidenced by the slow starts he typically makes to the start of a new season, he’s been a first team regular since he was 16, he’s had numerous injuries, in short, Rooney at 30, 31 or 32, is a not a Ryan Giggs or even Scholes at a similar age. He’s got miles on the clock. So I think Fergie deliberately shunned Rooney, froze him out, riled him up, and likely was a complete dick to him. Forcing Rooney to ask for a transfer. I think Fergie felt it’d be for the longer term benefit of the club if Rooney was moved on before he signs a new deal that will keep him at the club, probably until or very close to him retiring. Step forward David Moyes. Moyes, I believe, was made aware of the plan, but didn’t agree with the plan. Which is why we saw Rooney pen a new deal during pre-season. Was it the right or wrong decision? I can see arguments for both. But either way – I forgive Rooney for this one, too.
So it isn’t his transfer requests that have distanced Rooney from the fans, for me. I get the impression he’s playing for United because it’s his job. Which is probably true of a lot of our players, but our captain, doesn’t feel like one of us and it’s not because he’s a Scouser, either. He just comes across as cold. It could be because of his management, Paul Stretford isn’t known as someone able to endear his clients to people, but the Rooney situation and the ‘love’ he gets from the fans has been thrust into the spotlight because of how Bastian Schweinstieger has arrived on the scene and is showing Rooney up. He’s a leader on the pitch and he’s showing how much he loves being here by his constant updates on Twitter. Now I get those who say they don’t care what a player does on Twitter and they’d rather players don’t say anything. But Rooney is active on Twitter, so why not say things that are going to make the fans want to hear from you? After our draw with Newcastle spoke about how excited he was to go and see Tiger Woods, Bastian? Apologising for the poor performance and promising we’ll fight next week. Rooney’s on so much money he could even hire an intern to do it for him. Whoever is in charge of his PR needs to wise up, because I am sure he does care about the club, but he’s so media managed that you just cannot warm to him.
So for me, yes, brilliant achievement what he’s done. But he’s just shy of being able to stand shoulder to shoulder with players that are Manchester United. Maybe there’s still time to change that though.
Until next week!