When it comes to Wayne Rooney, my opinion is highly unpopular among many Reds. I do not like the man, the nonchalance with which, in 2010, he was ready to dump the club that had made him what he is now disgusted me and while I appreciate that a multi-millionaire footballer could not care less about the fans’ feelings, his behaviour at the time left a sour taste in my mouth.
Over the final months of last season, Rooney looked unhappy, distracted and out of shape but, incredibly, having become public enemy number one after Sir Alex Ferguson revealed that he had submitted a transfer request, good old Wayne’s reputation performed a remarkable turnaround in the eyes of the overwhelming majority of United fans.
Did the fans forgive him because they had no choice given that the club had made clear that they were not going to sell him, or did they reject Sir Alex’s theory, thus believing that Rooney was simply the epicentre of a smearing campaign by his former manager, whose only intent was to driving him out of the club or, worse even, did the fans simply accept that given the lack of reinforcements they had to get back to cheer the man some of them had labelled – not for the first time either – a traitor?
Whatever the reason, Rooney’s name has been chanted louder than ever before and while I have no trouble whatsoever in admitting that Rooney’s form has been excellent so far this season, as has his commitment to the club, I have taken exception to those branding Fergie a “liar” and those criticising fellow Reds for not supporting our number 10.
Leaving aside the fact that fans should support the club, rather than a particular player who happens to wear the shirt, the number of fans who thought that Sir Alex fabricated a story about Rooney’s desire to leave simply to get rid of him never made much sense.
Why would Fergie purposely drop a huge problem on David Moyes’ lap? Surely Sir Alex wouldn’t set out to make life difficult for his successor, would he? Alas, according to the “Roooooooooooooney” brigade, he would and he did.
Except that Rooney today declared that he did indeed consider the opportunity of leaving the club after growing frustrated to be played out of position last season because, as he explained, “I felt I deserved the right to play in my position.”
Without venturing into the fact that Wayne Rooney is, whether he likes it or not, a Manchester United Football Club’s employee and as such he should do what his boss(es) tell him to, let’s not forget that Rooney’s spot up-front was usurped by Robin Van Persie, the sort of world class player Rooney had cried out for when he had threatened to leave the club for the first time in 2010.
Rooney’s versatility has always been a positive, rather than a negative of his footballing career, not to mention that a man who has been classified as the last “street footballer” of British football should be happy to play just about anywhere on the pitch. But even admitting that Rooney’s stance is right, let’s analyse how many times he was in fact played out of position last season.
Rooney began his league campaign up-front alongside Danny Welbeck at Goodison Park, before coming on a substitute against Fulham the following week, when he picked up an injury that left him out of the team until Spurs won at Old Trafford a month later, as Rooney replaced Ryan Giggs at half time and was deployed as a support for Robin Van Persie.
Rooney was then deployed as attacking midfielder against Newcastle United and Stoke as United adopted a 4-2-3-1 formation, before returning to be Van Persie’s only support in the next three games, as United beat Chelsea away, Arsenal at home and Aston Villa away, a role he also occupied against QPR, after missing a trip to Norwich.
West Ham’s visit in late November saw Rooney deployed as central midfielder for the first time in the league, a role he also occupied against Braga and Cluj at Old Trafford in the Champions League, a competition in which Rooney also played as attacking midfielder away at Cluj and at Braga, while he was absent for the two games against Galatasaray.
Rooney played four of United’s six league games in December, every single one of them up-front, the same role he had occupied in a 4-3-3 formation against Newcastle in the League Cup earlier in the season and the same role he would occupy against West Ham (missed the first game, played the replay), Fulham and Chelsea (played the first game, absent in the replay) in the FA Cup, while he sat out against Reading.
After missing United’s first two games in January, Rooney came on as a substitute at White Hart Lane against Spurs, before being deployed up-front alongside Van Persie in the following three games and coming on as a substitute against QPR at Loftus Road. The 27-year-old was then utilised as a striker in back-to-back home wins against Norwich and Reading in March, before missing out on a trip to Sunderland and returning to lead the line against City in April.
Having been deployed in midfield against Real Madrid in February, Rooney occupied the same role away at Stoke, Arsenal and, partly, West Ham, a game he had started as a centre-forward alongside Van Persie, with whom he’d pair up again as United clinched the title at home against Villa, before coming on a sub against Chelsea in what would be his last appearance of the season as he missed out games against Swansea and West Bromwich Albion.
That’s six appearances as central midfielder over 31 games in all competition but, obviously, Fergie had a personal agenda against Rooney, even though our Wayne admitted that he had to be selfish for his career’s sake. “I got told to play in midfield and I didn’t want to. I just think there had to come a point when, for my own career, I had to be a bit selfish really.”
Well, Wayne, you know what? Considering you earn in the excess of £200,000-a-week you should probably bite the bullet and play wherever you’re bloody told to because, frankly, playing for Manchester United Football Club should be a privilege, not a burden. As for your career, under the man who played you where he deemed necessary you’ve won five league titles and a European Cup.
Not bad, ha?
Statistics according to the Official Manchester United Yearbook 2013
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