Updated: December 25, 2012 03:59 IST

The man who thinks on his feet

S. R. Suryanarayan
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My Decade in the Premier League; Wayne Rooney with Mat Alien; HarperSport, an imprint of HarperColins Publishers.
My Decade in the Premier League; Wayne Rooney with Mat Alien; HarperSport, an imprint of HarperColins Publishers.

Some sportspersons live a dream, like Sachin Tendulkar or the Argentine great Diego Maradona. They are legends in their chosen sport; they gave excellence a new dimension and they have been absolute entertainers. Sachin and Maradona had millions of fans swaying to their dictates with their captivating shows on the field.

Almost there in the same league is Wayne Rooney, the football sensation of England. Inspired by ‘footy’ he dreamt big and today…he is not ‘Roooneey’ in the England football fields alone, but in Europe, Asia and even in India where to the younger generation in particular he is a synonym for Manchester United (MU), one of English Premier League’s glamour teams.

For Rooney football is virtually opium. He is addicted to it; but more importantly, he has ensured that football too without him will never be what it is …vibrant, to put it mildly. Someone who earned millions of pounds as a 16-year before he could even get a driving licence let alone whiz around in the fanciest of cars, Rooney is the perfect subject for an exciting story.

The hugely talented player has shown his mettle, broken records in the Premier League, brought unending joy to MU and his adoring fans and so to be hearing from him, his trials and tribulations, the ups and lows of his career thus far and of course what MU is all about, has to be something special. His autobiography is strictly about his life in the Premier League, the ten years that he has been in it thus far, his times with MU. But then his life in football would perhaps never have been as it is, had it not been for his long standing Manager, Alex Ferguson.

The Premier League’s most successful manager opens his mind on him in the foreword, which is a frank admission of how a huge gamble turned into gold! “There were plenty of eyebrows raised when I persuaded the Manchester United’s board of directors to sanction a multi-million pound move to prise Wayne Rooney away from Everton,” writes Ferguson. “The lad was only 18 but he had already shown in the two years he had been in Everton (where he debuted at 16 years) first team that he was a rare talent,” wrote the coach.

Having delivered and now on the threshold of carving a niche for himself in the history of MU, Ferguson admits “I’d like to think I’ve made one or two good decisions during my time in football — and a few I’d rather forget! — but there is no question that the signing of Wayne Rooney from Everton is right up there with the best of them.” Rooney portrays himself as a man who hates losing and this characteristic has not changed one bit even after 10 years, he says. “I hate losing. I hate it with a passion. It’s the worst feeling ever and not even a goal or three in a match can make a defeat seem ok. Unless I’ve walked off the pitch a winner, the goals are pointless.

If United lose, I’m not interested in how many I’ve scored,” declares the man considered to have one of the fastest pair of heels on the field. Once in training, his 100m dash was clocked at 9.4 seconds! “That makes me quicker than Usain Bolt,” quipped Rooney with a touch of pride. For all this he has had his forgettable moments, the tiffs with Refs but nothing takes away from the fact that he is the fulcrum on which MU’s fortunes revolve.

Rooney’s greatness lay in the list of achievements he has had with MU: highest scorer in PL, surpassing George Best’s tally of 179 goals; winning four league titles, champions league title in 2008 and two League cups and what is more his stunning overhead kick — the winning goal in the 2011 Manchester derby at Old Trafford — was voted as the greatest goal in the PL’s 20-year history.

For one who has rubbed shoulders with some of the best in the business, his humility surfaces when he talks of say a Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, Rooney believes his best is still ahead: “when I retire I want to be thought of as a winner.”

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