As Wayne Rooney seemingly nears the end of his Manchester United career, his legacy faces the threat of devaluation.
The joy surrounding the birth of ‘the royal baby’, especially the media coverage in Britain, almost made you cringe. It would take a massive leap of imagination to picture a similar celebration in India, if the head of the state became a father. Actually, it’s even tougher to imagine Pranab Mukherjee enjoying the joys of fatherhood at this age.
To leave the disturbing thought behind, let’s focus on another baby. A baby who isn’t royal, but is he even loyal?
Wayne Rooney is the baby in question. It seems rather impertinent to call a 27-year-old stocky and balding man, a baby. But, frustrated by his tantrums and purported desire to leave Manchester United, many would regard him as immature. The tag of impetuousness doesn’t sit too well on an experienced player.
While the club has done well to cast him in the role of villain, Rooney’s silence on the issue has only fuelled the suspicion. Until he comes out clean, United fans would continue to pluck flower petals and mutter “he loves us, he loves us not” fervently.
But, were Rooney to leave the club, would it be fair to brand him disloyal? It seems unjust to invoke such allegations while assessing a footballer who has spent nine seasons with the same team and scored 197 goals. Moreover, Rooney has won the side five league titles and a Champions League trophy through his talismanic displays.
Despite battling injuries and poor form last term, the England striker has never had a worse season at the club. At Rooney’s age, one would be more inclined to call the previous campaign an aberration than to claim a serious decline in his abilities.
So, how did this come to pass? Not long ago, the 27-year-old was indispensable to United. Now, however, the fans don’t seem too downbeat at the prospect of losing him. Rooney’s relationship with the supporters has certainly been dented but would it be wise to sell him?
After all, the striker’s fighting abilities have been demonstrated time and again. The prospect of a rejuvenated Rooney, in a Chelsea or Arsenal jersey, hurting United’s title bid is not improbable. The club manager David Moyes could do a lot worse than selling one of his premier players to a title contender, really.
But if he does want to leave, should United still hold on to him? Perhaps, no. A sulking Rooney could be as damaging as a rejuvenated one. But, as one of my friends remarked, the club would be setting a poor precedent by acceding to his demands.
When Rooney first intimated his desire to leave United during the 2010-11 season, the club embalmed his wounds with a salary hike. But really, to do the same again, would symbolise meek submission at the altar of player power.
We find ourselves in a funny situation, don’t we?
Well, yes, reconciliation is possible still. But Moyes’ inclination to play a single striker would have to be reined in, if Rooney is to figure at the forefront of his plans and system. Thanks to his insane goal scoring form over the past few seasons, Robin van Persie is almost untouchable. Rooney is understood to be unhappy at being played out of position and sees his primary role as a striker.
Though there’s nothing to suggest the strike partnership may not prosper, Moyes’ tactical plans for the club are not easily displaceable. The Scot’s pursuit of Fabregas is indicative of his desire to play a single striker. Hence, the Rooney problem is not just an irritant. It has ensured that the Scot is yet to experience normality at the club.
This issue may continue to chafe Moyes until September 2, the last day of the summer transfer window. If Rooney’s future is unresolved till then, United will be involved in battles on and off the pitch.
The striker’s departure, however, shouldn’t invite allegations of disloyalty. For the best part of nine seasons, Rooney has displayed impeccable commitment to the United cause. The nature of profession notwithstanding, a better job opportunity is tough to turn down. Footballers are not bound to the history or tradition of a club, but the contract.
For the players, the sport is their livelihood. However, for the fans, it is an entertaining fare to which they turn out of boredom, despair etc. To expect the players to invoke a fan’s moralistic notions while weighing up their next move is a woolly-eyed aspiration which would never come to pass.
Rooney is a professional footballer. Like a professional, he seeks to achieve greater success with a different group. Since the striker has never leaked any team plans to their rivals, his loyalty to the club remains intact. Stay or leave, his infantile ways assumed, Wayne Rooney will remain a loyal baby.