“Once a blue, always a blue” – these were the words uttered by the man of the moment. That very statement might well be justified by Wayne Rooney, if he switches from the red of Old Trafford to the sky blue of Eastlands. Many of United’s fans woke up to a shock on Monday morning, discovering their star asset is considering moving on. Such has been the media speculation over the past couple of days that it has unsettled everyone associated with the club. The boy from Liverpool was considered as the torch-bearer for both Manchester United and England for the next decade. He was not only considered the brightest English footballer of his generation, but also a saviour of England.
At the tender age of 10, the boy from Croxteth joined his hometown club Everton. He eventually made his debut in 2002, scoring a superb goal in the same year against Champions Arsenal to end their 30-game unbeaten streak, thereby announcing his arrival in the world of football in grand style. The “Boy Wonder” was called up for national duty, and was the youngest player to ever play for England. He was then selected for the Euro cup in 2004, where he performed beyond expectations, underlining his confidence and maturity at the age of 18. He scored four goals in the process, taking England to the quarter finals. But things weren’t to be as fruitful, as he was stretchered out, with England eventually bowing out to hosts Portugal in a penalty shootout.
Post Euro 2004, things were changing very quickly for Wayne when he signed for Manchester United as the most expensive teenager for a staggering 25.6 million pounds, much to the fury of the Everton supporters and their manager David Moyes. On the other hand, the Red Devils welcomed the darling of English football with open arms, their hearts warming after their own bad run in the Premier league. The United faithful knew they had found a gem in Rooney, who would carry the legacy of Giggs, Scholes and Neville for the next generation and help United stay at the top of the power pack in European football. Rooney exceeded their expectations, as he scored a scintillating hat-trick on his Manchester United debut, destroying Fenerbache with a 6-2 scoreline. Things didn’t fall into place for the next two years, as United shied out of the Champion’s League and surrendered to Chelsea in the domestic league. They managed a solitary League cup trophy in 2006 against a hapless Wigan Athletic in the final, with a brace by Rooney earning him the “Man of the Match” and his first trophy in the famous Red shirt.
It was the World cup year, and expectations on Rooney were sky high to lead England to glory after forty years. But things went bad in April at Stamford Bridge, as Rooney broke his metatarsal and United were trashed by Chelsea, ending their trophy chances. Rooney was virtually ruled out of the World cup, before making a heroic comeback with the help of an Oxygen tent in the final fixture of the group stages. England were clueless and lackluster in the first two matches, as they managed two hard fought wins against mediocre opposition. Rooney couldn’t change much in the third match, where they drew with Sweden and eventually qualified for the knock out stages by topping the group. Ironically, they were knocked out in the quarter finals by Portugal, yet again on penalties. Rooney saw red as he stamped Carvalho and was involved in a controversial moment with his Manchester United team mate Ronaldo, who provoked the referee into sending Rooney off.
The English were furious with Ronaldo’s actions and started driving him out of the nation. If not for a certain Alex Ferguson, we probably wouldn’t have seen “The Ronaldo” in Ronaldo. Things went by swiftly, as the partnership of Rooney and Ronaldo blossomed brilliantly when no one saw it coming – thanks to Sir Alex, who made them shed their ego and help the team. Both of them contributed 23 goals that season ,as United went on to win the league after four long and painful years. Some spice was added to the already deadly combination, when Tevez was introduced into the mix.
The Then Holy Trinity!!!
The glory days returned to Manchester as United went on to win their third European trophy with the help of the Awesome Threesome in 2008, trumping Chelsea in a penalty shootout in Moscow. Rooney lived under the shadow of Ronaldo and Tevez, as both the foreigners took all the headlines for their goals and contribution; yet he didn’t complain, and, as always, put his team ahead of individual glory. The following year was even better, as Sir Alex bought more reinforcements in Dimitar Berbatov, who signed for his dream club for a record transfer of 32 million pounds. Another year was filled with glory as United went on to win the Club World Cup and the Premier league, but they lost to Barcelona in the final of the European Cup. Eventually, Ronaldo quit United for his dream move to Real Madrid and Tevez’s contract was not renewed by Sir Alex, much to the fury of the Red faithful. No replacements were bought, as the Gaffer trusted his squad to deliver what they had done for the last three years.
With Ronaldo gone and Tevez kicked out, Rooney was the main man for United. The “Talismanic” figure at United, who was bought in 2004, finally had the chance to prove what he was capable of. Rooney was recognized for his courage, commitment, determination and loyalty. The boy from Croxteth finally delivered the goods, scoring a staggering 34 goals which helped United take the title challenge with Chelsea to the final day of the season, and also winning the League Cup in the process. No doubt United had failed to win the elusive 19th title last year, but Wazza had given his all for the club and the fans.
Enter the World Cup, and Rooney after his sensational season was again expected to lead his mediocre England side to success under the guidance of Fabio Capello. Eventually, they were kicked out by Germany in the second round, with Rooney suffering the worst tournament of his career without a single goal or assist. Whilst it is true that Rooney was poor, he was also suffering from a lack of fitness and an injury he carried in March playing against Bayern Munich.
Rooney – Down and out?
Rooney was dejected after his nightmare World cup, but was looking forward to start his season with the Red Devils and help them get back the league title while also collecting personal endeavors. Although he had a short pre-season, he played brilliantly in the Community Shield, helping United to trump Chelsea.
All hell broke loose in September when Rooney was accused of being involved in a sex scandal with a certain 21 year old Jenny Thompson. “Wazza” was made the villain in the press when the stories came out in to the light, and perhaps deservedly so. Such was the spotlight on him that he and Coleen (his wife) wrote a letter to the press requesting them to stop speculating stories about their private life. Wayne incidentally knew that a Club with the tradition, stature and dignity of Manchester United would never tolerate this. Yet, the man at the helm Sir Alex protected his star striker in the best way possible, shielding him from the hunting dogs of the Media. Fergie made a number of excuses to keep Wazza out of the spotlight and give him time to rediscover his form. But Rooney still hasn’t regained the form he had last season, which begs the important question – Is he really motivated and interested to play for United anymore?
Manchester United had to make a trip to Merseyside, to Rooney’s home club, in September. All eyes were on him to roar back into action and change his status from the “Flop of the World cup” to the “Icon of United”. But his manager knew there would be too many sharks to bite Rooney in the heart at Everton; so he decided to rest his key man and give him a break to sort out all his private issues. This break was extended to a larger period, as Rooney didn’t participate in the following matches against Valencia and Sunderland. Apparently, Sir Alex stated that Rooney had an ankle injury and would be back in a couple of weeks. Wayne played for England the following week, but came out frustrated after a toothless draw against Montenegro.
Sir Alex protects Wayne!
Questioned about his fitness, Rooney negated Sir Alex’s statement saying he was fit throughout the season. Coming from a working class, he might not be well educated, but he is literate enough to know not to go against his manager. This sparked the most intense speculation in the Media for the entire year, as all the British tabloids were filled up with stories about “Rooney wanting to leave United”. Fans around the World were shocked and disgusted about the decision that Rooney had taken. Sir Alex officially announced on Tuesday, October the 19th, 5 days before Rooney’s 25th Birthday that indeed the Prodigal son of England wanted to leave the most successful club in the country. A man with history, dignity and high moral values as Sir Alex was absolutely hurt when he presented the truth before the fans and the media, and also mentioned that he had no idea why Rooney had decided to leave Old Trafford.
Although, Rooney hasn’t officially spoken about his desire to leave the “Theatre of Dreams”, there are some reasons which are driving him out of United. The primary reason might be the money being offered elsewhere, which would substantially be higher than his current wages and fill up his weekly pockets. Sources say that he was in discussions with Manchester City in August over a possible transfer, with wages of 300 thousand pounds per week. It is hard to think that a man who shared the same realms as Sir Alex would make such a greedy move. But as they say, money can buy anything or anyone.
Ever since the Glazers took over United, they have helped the Red Devils win a lot of trophies and at the same time they have mounted a merciless debt on the club. In all fairness, Sir Alex hasn’t played his part well regarding the money left from Ronaldo’s transfer. The man has always stated that money is in the kitty and he doesn’t see any value in the transfer market, what with the ever escalating transfer fees and the wages. He might be right in some cases; he isn’t in the others. It was his fault to let Ozil, Van der vaart and many other world class midfielders slip out of his hands, as United are suffering from a lack of creativity. Rooney might have been concerned about this, as there aren’t any replacements for Ronaldo,Tevez and the Golden oldies Giggs and Scholes, and the quality of the squad is diminishing by the day.
The other main reason might be the escape from the spotlight of the British press to sunny Spain, where he could re-ignite his career either with Real Madrid or Barcelona, and at the same time play at the highest level. On the personal front, Rooney can repair his tainted relationship without the scrutiny of the British press.
After all the speculation over the last week, Sir Alex has still given his star man a chance to make a U-turn, to become a United legend and join the elite group of Charlton, Best, Giggs, Scholes and co. What Wayne will do is a mystery which will not be solved till January, or perhaps June, when we enter the transfer market. Whether he decides to leave or stay, a world-class talent like Rooney should not be left to rot. A true Manchester United fan will always wish their players luck wherever they move to, and same will be the case with Rooney. But Wayne will certainly realize that “Grass is not always greener on the other side” and “Money is not the Wealth every-time”.
From the United perspective, the club has always moved on, and it’s no different this time around; however, it will cause some damage to their reputation, as they are losing star players like grains in a farm. This is the toughest and most challenging part of Sir Alex’s managerial career, and how he gets Manchester United out of this shadow will be the million-dollar question.
Similar things have occurred at Old Trafford in the past. In 1968, United won the European cup for the first time under the guidance of Sir Matt Busby. Two years later, their star player George Best left them to Fulham. Three years on, in 1973 after the retirement of Sir Matt Busby, United were relegated thanks to a back heel by their legend Dennis Law, who played for Manchester City then. It took them two decades to rebuild their status as the powerhouses of English and European football under a certain genius in Sir Alex Ferguson. After two decades of dominance, United are falling apart again, but this time on both the trophy and the financial fronts. United fans around the world hope that the man who has led them to glory for the last two decades can stop history from repeating itself.
Money vultures are circling around the “Theatre of Dreams”, and dark times lie ahead. But as the saying goes, there is light at the end of a dark tunnel, and a club with the stature of Manchester United deserves to be in the light and not in the dark.