Wayne Rooney’s last hurrah
Time; mankind’s common denominator. Time; our common democracy. Time and its capacity to dull memories. It is thirteen years since a burly teenager from Liverpool, from the blue half of Merseyside to be exact, moved onto Manchester United. Bullish and with his then famed brute strength and pub boxer look accompanied by a suspect waistline bustled onto the scene and became England’s next great hope.
Wayne Rooney scared more defenders than they would admit with his raw talent and a fiery demeanour that always threatened to spill over the edge. Thirteen years later Wayne Rooney is England and Manchester United’s top goal scorer. Add to that a champions league triumph and multiple premier league titles and one wonders why there have been so few accolades or kind words from Manchester United fans in recognition of his achievements. Is it perhaps that they still remember the manner in which he hankered for a move away, questioning the side’s ability to compete with top rivals? Or maybe, just maybe, he had become a liability to the side as so many believe?
Time has the capacity to dull so many memories and it is no truer than in the case of the man once known as ‘the white Pele’. Rooney was a fantastic footballer; combining the inherent English traits of ‘play hard, kick hard’ with a svelte technique that would not have been misplaced on a Frenchman or a Spaniard.
But above all he was as selfless as he was orderly rambunctious and to a larger degree it was his selfless nature that could have been his undoing. Back then, when United had teeth, Rooney could play wide with the pit bull terrier that was Carlos Tevez being the centre forward and while he may have inwardly had reservations the Evertonian did a fine job and another of United’s then stellar front line, one Cristiano Ronaldo, did benefit from Rooney’s massive work rate.
It is hard to believe ‘Wazza’ is only 32 years old. Even at thirty, there are some who had already sounded his death knell by then. So what are Everton getting? A Rolls-Royce of a player who like his old teammate Ryan Giggs would still be able to influence games despite his age or they are simply being sentimental, offering him the familiar comforts of home? Is Wayne Rooney over the hill? It is worth noting that the past season Rooney spent a lot of time on the bench or failed to even make the match day squad.
Before, it was inconceivable to have to think of a United team without him in it and the fact that it was Jose Mourinho, who years earlier had moved mountains to try getting Rooney to Chelsea and had previously held him in high regard, who now had to bench the Englishman, must definitely have stung him.
No matter how good a player is, if he doesn’t play he will lose his confidence and faith in his abilities and ultimately a player lacking such either has to somehow find himself or move on. Rooney has moved on and now the question is whether he will find himself and force his way into Gareth Southgate’ plans for next year’s World Cup in Russia.
Time has definitely eaten away some of his previously best traits: the explosion, the deceptive pace, although he wasn’t the fastest and his often precise finishing. There are very few players, not only in the premier league who boasted Rooney’s all round game and there definitely will be very few after he has left the game. The headache for his new manager must then be how to get back his belief; how to get the old terrier’s bark back. While he certainly is past his peak, it is this writer’s belief that given a fixed role in a team and manager that believes in him, presumably as a number 10 in a midfield role, Wayne Rooney still has two or three seasons in him.
It is hard to believe that the latter statement is true because time has made us forget what a good passer of the ball he is, how combative he can be. And now only time will tell whether he still has it in him for one last hurrah, at least to conjure up pleasant memories in most United fans who had begun to spit on him and all that he had done for the club.
While Jose Mourinho’s handling of Rooney’s exit was a master class considering the Portuguese can be ruthless and heartless, the opposite is true for most Manchester United fans. They couldn’t wait to be rid of their record goal scorer- by all accounts their behaviour was despicable considering the personal sacrifices he had made for the club. They forget too quickly, yet again, slaves to time’s capacity to lessen one of England and Manchester United’s greatest ever players. Listen, don’t listen to the naysayers, Wayne Rooney was one hell of a player. He was the scourge of many a club and any defender in his heyday. But now, he finds himself (like all of us) at the mercy of time, but man what a player and a nuisance he was in his younger days!
They have forgotten that overhead kick goal against their eternal rivals. That pass to Robin van Persie’s strike for his hat-trick against Aston Villa. The hard men of football and life will say that such memories must be done away with; that there is no room for sentimental figures in the beautiful game and that when a man has done his time he simply must leave by the back door and let other have their time in the spot light. Is it true though? Is that how a club and its fans ought to treat one of its greatest?
But it’s all in Rooney’s court now. Could he summon all his powers and give the fans at least one more than a decent season. He looks short of confidence and a bit broken but if Ronald Koeman can nurse back his brittle self and cajole that fiery temperament back, who knows what he can and will do?