Wayne Rooney’s legacy marches on against his own will

This article was originally posted on The False Nine in September 2013. It springs to mind once again in light of Rooney’s new contract.

If he’s happy, he’s got a funny way of showing it. But for Wayne Rooney, happiness does not appear to be an essential quality. Its absence from his working life has done nothing to neuter his rampant return to form. It’s a curious contradiction for a man so heralded as the archetypal lover-of-the-game, but perhaps that’s just it – so great is his love for football that he is utterly ambivalent as to where he’s playing it.

This ambivalence sits awkwardly alongside another facet of Rooney’s career: He is, despite his morale, moving unblinkingly towards Manchester United’s all-time goal-scoring record, held at present by the iconic Sir Bobby Charlton. That a man who has on more than one occasion tried to force his way out of Old Trafford could eclipse the feat of a legend who lives and breathes for the club creates a baffling dilemma, for the fans as well as the man himself.

The fans, in fairness, have been more than willing. Like jilted lovers who always thought their ex was too good for them, they’ve welcomed him back with open arms when wandering eyes led him nowhere. But there’s now something slightly pathetic in the chorus of ‘Roooney’ and the applause for his every back-track. If United had signed even one of the star names they pursued in the summer, their attitudes would almost certainly be different. This renewed affection has spawned from necessity.

After all, how will they really feel if Rooney goes on and gets the half-century more he needs to stand atop the all-time list? Will any of them really, truly believe that he is United’s best ever striker? Even now, in what should be the prime of his career, there’s a feeling that he’s already failed to live up to the potential showed in his earliest years.

How the fans would feel is one thing, but even more significant is the question of what it would mean to Rooney himself. Though both he and David Moyes are obliging when the records are mentioned in interviews, he has never really cut a figure for whom a one-club legacy is significant. His own actions in transfer windows recent and long past suggest that he would much rather be plying his trade elsewhere. Whether for more money or more glory as the lone and untouchable frontman, there are qualities Wayne wants in his world that club records do not fulfill.

Alas, the marriage of convenience goes on. Rooney and United may still do great things together, trophies and records included. But the cards were placed on the table long ago. No matter what he achieves, both club and player know he’d rather be elsewhere.

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Suarez, Reina and the hypocrisy of loyalty

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Liverpool are outraged. Their fans are outraged, their manager is outraged, their club mascot, presumably, is outraged. How dare Luis Suarez make clear his intention to play football in another kit. It’s disrespectful, is what it is. Disrespectful for a player to ask to leave and classless for another football club, namely Arsenal, to do their best to make that wish come true.

Elsewhere on Merseyside, Jose Manuel Reina is in the process of packing up his worldly possessions. He’s recently informed his wife and newborn child that they’ll be moving to Italy this summer, for how long, well, we don’t really know, in less than 12 months, Daddy might be looking for work somewhere else. But what of respect for this loyal servant of 8 years? Did his club act with class, at least, in bidding him farewell? Oh, that’s right. They loaned him out without telling him first.

Here lies the pathetic hypocrisy behind Brendan Rodgers’ sanctimonious ramblings, the sheer emptiness behind any modern football club’s attempt to invoke blind loyalty as a reason why a player should feel obligated to remain their own. It’s a one way street. Continue reading

Bale may be a big fish but we don’t know the size of his pond

balebigfishYou could forgive Gareth Bale if he wanted to leave Spurs this Summer. Missing out on fourth place despite a campaign of gargantuan personal proportions, the general consensus that ‘players of his level need Champion’s League football’ has set the machine in motion. Chins are wagging, keyboards rattling and sharks circling up and down the country, with one slight problem – none of them asked Bale himself what he thought.

And so it is with great ecstasy from Spurs fans and an almost patronising appreciation from the media with which the news of Bale’s impending new contract has been greeted. Bless him, young Gareth, giving it one more year. Resisting the temptations of an immediate cash in on his best ever season, willingly putting himself through another 12 months of Europa League purgatory. His 150K a week salary will likely still pale in comparison to what he could make elsewhere, so his decision to stay must be rooted in little more than loyalty resting in the depths of his heart. Except when you think about it…it really does make sense. Continue reading

Why Arsene Wenger should do all he can to sign Wayne Rooney

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Transitional period. It’s a phrase thrown around a lot in football and for Arsenal would aptly describe nearly a decade of league disappointments. But for themselves as well as their rivals, next season is a unique proposition. It is a transitional period for the entire Premier League.

With Sir Alex Ferguson gone, Manchester United face a challenge without any modern precedent in sustaining the momentum he did his best to leave them with. Their City rivals enter yet another managerial era with their new boss facing an immediate challenge in winning over the fans so faithful to his predecessor. Chelsea welcome Jose Mourinho back with open arms, a reunion which could yet go sour as they remember all the reasons for their uneasy severance last time around. Pipped to the fourth place post at the death yet again, Spurs brace themselves for an onslaught of interest in Gareth Bale and the question of what on earth they’d do without him.

Arsenal enter the Summer window in a position unique amongst their fellow elite. Continue reading

Bulletproof Redknapp shielded by a cloak of Sparky’s hardened flesh

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Between them, Mark Hughes and Harry Redknapp have presided over a catastrophic Premier League campaign: Hughes in charge for 12 games, Redknapp the remaining 26, only 23 of which it took to condemn them to relegation. And yet the reaction to their two tenures could not be more different. So firmly entrenched is disgust with the man who began the campaign that you could easily forget that ‘Arry’s reign itself comprised only four league wins, a slew of goalless draws and a comical January transfer window in which Christopher Samba received an almost messianic welcome upon his return from Russian exile before it turned out he was little more than a very naughty boy.

Defending Hughes would be a pointless exercise. Having ended last season with a stern, wrinkled promise that QPR would never again face relegation so long as he was in charge, he duly took a shortcut to the realisation of this prophecy by overseeing a 5-0 home defeat to Swansea City on the opening day. Eleven winless games later and he was out of the door. Nobody in their right mind would claim that Hughes did a good job, his own players and fans having been vocally delighted to see the back of him. But that was in November. Continue reading

Sunderland’s Cup Final ends in defeat as Villa Triumph in MONMC Memorial Cup

The buildup to Monday night’s inaugural Martin O’Neill’s Managerial Career Memorial Cup could not have been more fierce. Long forgotten were the questionable merits of its combatants, the dubious timing of the match (widely believed to have been at Gary Neville’s behest) and the fact that Aston Villa were allowed to host the game in their very own ground. All of this meant nothing amidst the furious anticipation stirred up by Paulo Di Canio’s tirade of gesticulation and hyperbole. His players arriving in the Midlands trembling with nervous excitement, Di Canio dedicated his team’s impending victory to the ‘fearless leader’ they were honouring, seemingly unaware that O’Neill was the man he himself had directly replaced.

The intricate O'Neill sculpture trophy was donated by Emile Heskey.

The intricate O’Neill sculpture trophy was donated by friends of Emile Heskey.

Ahead of the Cup Final Sunderland appeared to be huge favourites; their 3-0 semi demolition of local rivals for inferiority Newcastle even more impressive in the light of Villa’s own recent defeat to Manchester United, where they once again progressed by default on account of United’s failure to have ever been managed by Martin O’Neill. Continue reading

Rush to announce ‘Bayern era’ reveals English desparation for a blueprint

How quick they were to dance on Barcelona’s grave. The empire had fallen, its impotent figurehead nothing more than a relic of dominance years gone by. The head of a statue alone in the desert.

The narrative for Tuesday night was written before a ball had even been kicked. Journalists across the board heralded a meeting of ‘past vs. present.’ It was a theme resonant in part due to Pep Guardiola’s impending destination, but there was something more at work. Ravaged by injury, their tiny talisman lacking match fitness, a tired Barca side were coming up against a German outfit in thundering form. The media smelt blood.

"My name is Messi, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

“My name is Messi, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

In true gladiatorial style, Bayern delivered. From the 4-0 scoreline all of the pre-match talk appears justified; the reaction was inevitable. The Barca Era had ended, the greatest team in decades was finally in decline. They had been neutralised, overpowered, frankly embarrassed. Now everyone would look to Bayern, not Barca, for the blueprint for success. Having a team awash with six foot athletes was once again in vogue. Xavi and Iniesta? Pfft, Javi Martinez fouls more than both of them combined. Continue reading