“Wayne’s world is the place to be!,” said a rather dazzled commentator, when more than three years ago, an Evertonian was ripping every opposition defence apart at will in front of a packed, rip-roaring lot at Stretford End. He would smash one past the keeper and slide down on the turf in front of his passionate fans, and that would go on until he was stopped being pleased about what he had done to turn the game. That was Wayne Rooney back then – relentless, fearless and a competitor that would take anything but consolations in his stride. For him, second place was never an option, but was his fierce opponent.
Fast forward to summer 2013 – Rooney is looking for greener pastures. The United talisman is effectively shown the gates of the Theatre of Dreams. And most importantly, the best English player of this generation was told to accept second place.
From a prospective United legend to a dismayed outcast, the Rooney ouster saga remains a baffling Premier League sub-plot that seems likely to end up being a stupefying anti-climax. From Sir Alex’s untimely exit to Moyes’ early stumble off the blocks, and not to mention Jose’s liking for a warhorse to complete the attacking framework of his new side, the complications surrounding the issue make it sound more perplexing with every passing moment.
And the diminishing margin of error in what already looks like early momentum in the title race has made sure that one can expect serious consequences off this deal’s outcome.
Yet, when one decides to look into this prolonged transfer drama, it’s safe to say that none of its characters would have loved to be a part of it at all. Rooney, the lead of this whole unwelcome fiasco, may be the most benefited one at the end of this all, yet not the most satisfied one for sure. After earning a name for himself in the famous Red shirt and giving it all for nine long years, a tame exit from Old Trafford won’t live up to the stature that Wayne Rooney has enjoyed at United.
He came in at Manchester one the back of a hefty price-tag, surreal expectations and the potential to take the footballing world by surprise. In 2004, he left the Merseyside just because he understood that his talent demanded a grander stage. And in the past 9 years, one may doubt his playing form, yet none could question his commitment levels, even in the direst of circumstances.
In fact, Rooney, even after being a club icon, never looked to exhibit a false fan-boy side to lure the PR side or to cover his on-field blunders. He respected his employers; he worked for them as a model professional, but never took them for granted. And now, when the club and a larger quadrant of supporters are cursing the No. 10 for his stand on a possible transfer, Rooney, to be fair, is just doing what is feasible in an employee-management relationship at any football club.
After playing the better part of his professional career with incredible consistency, if the club doesn’t see him suited to their plans for the upcoming season, then it’s an understandable decision for the player to want to leave. Rooney traded Merseyside Blues for the Manchester Red to fuel his massive ambitions and it won’t be surprising if he moves on to another challenge.
In hindsight, it’s rather difficult to point out that one thing that led to Rooney being shown the exit door. Was it his run of sluggish on-field performances? Or was it the rise of a Robin van Persie at the Theatre of Dreams? Did Rooney lose his game-breaking abilities in the span of just one season? Well, the more we analyse, the closer we would get to a reality check.
It’s interesting to see how perceptions polarise when it comes to evaluating a player like Rooney on the basis of his performances last season. Many pundits even went on to write off the Englishman’s career by underlining the number of goals he’s scored this season in the league. Well, 12 goals in 22 starts reflects little to showcase the abilities of a marquee striker – certainly not when compared to the team’s new hero, van Persie.
Yet, it’s unbelievable how people tend to forget that of his 22 starts for United, only twice did he play as a centre-forward. As far as the goal contribution numbers are concerned, Rooney, with a total of 21 goals and assists combined, at a rate of 0.95 per start, is only bettered by Messi, Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic, Lewandowski and Ribery across Europe. Bottom-line – there isn’t a single attacking option in the Premier League that has been a more prolific goal-getter for his side. And yes, this was Rooney’s so called ‘below par’ season!
Moreover, when Rooney critics tried to look beyond his goal-scoring numbers and question his work-rate on the field, only few would have really bothered to check the numbers. Having racked up a 90% tackling success ratio and 42 possession wins in the defensive 3rd (more than three times of his 5-year average), it’s incredible to see how contributions fail to command any significance to a media obsessed with ludicrous agendas.
In fact, it is a rather pleasing sight for the tabloids to witness footballing careers fall short of legendary status – not out of malice but for the sheer curiosity value of the story. In Rooney, they found an image of a rusty competitor, a fallen hero and a rebel wanting an exit pass from the wonderland. And credit to the media hubs that they have really chased the saga for the better part of the last two months with no effective end to it.
Let’s face it – Rooney is not in this precarious position on pure footballing terms. Be it Sir Alex’s decision to buy title no. 20 on the back of a £24 million coup, the lack of faith in Rooney’s attacking prowess or just pure destiny, the possible exit of United’s best forward in the past decade will leave a gaping hole in the side. A few may measure it with respect to his absence in United, while others may prefer to gloat on his statistics with a new club.
It will be some time before we hear the last of this impending yet riveting piece of transfer business.