Wayne Rooney blames last season’s disillusionment on Alex Ferguson
Striker described himself as ‘happy’ and ‘settled’ now David Moyes is in charge
Manchester United and England’s Wayne Rooney “I feel as fit as I ever have done . . . I feel great and in good shape.”
Wayne Rooney has spoken publicly for the first time about his reasons for wanting to leave Manchester United and blamed his disillusionment on Alex Ferguson playing him out of position after the signing of Robin van Persie.
Rooney described himself as “happy” and “settled” at Old Trafford now David Moyes is in charge but the England striker notably stopped short when asked to clarify whether that meant he wanted to stay in Manchester or if he would renew his attempts to leave next summer. Choosing his words carefully, all Rooney would say on the subject was there would be more discussions behind the scenes.
However, it is his relationship with Ferguson that provides the backdrop to Rooney’s explanation about the chain of events that led to him trying to engineer a move to Chelsea in the summer. He does not mention the former United manager once by name. Yet, in another sense, Ferguson is implicated in everything as the picture emerges of a player who had started to feel undervalued and mistreated after Van Persie’s arrival from Arsenal.
Asked whether he had raised his concerns with the relevant people at Old Trafford, Rooney opened his arms to show his exasperation and smiled knowingly. “Yeah, and . . . ” That was the meeting at which he apparently told Ferguson he might leave and an already strained relationship was fractured. Ferguson dropped Rooney from his team and, to the player’s dismay, publicised what had been said during a live television interview, describing it as a verbal transfer request.
Rooney’s account is that, after nearly a decade at the club, he felt he had done enough to warrant a place in “my position”, namely as centre-forward, and was fed up of being told to help out in midfield. “Everyone at the club knew where I wanted to play and I think that’s why I was disappointed. I got told to play in midfield and I didn’t want to. I just think there had to come a point when, for my own career, I had to be a bit selfish really.”
This goes back to last spring, not long after he had been left out of United’s starting XI to face Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final. “I actually felt when I played in midfield I did okay, but I didn’t want to play there. I’ve had no problem in the past playing out of position. But I felt I deserved the right to play in my position and that wasn’t happening. I think, naturally, I was a bit disappointed and maybe that affected some of the games I played. I know myself that last year wasn’t my best season but there were times when I was playing in different positions. I didn’t feel I got a consistent run of games up front. ”
Rooney was the subject of two Chelsea bids – £23 million on July 16th and £25 million on August 4th – and Jose Mourinho challenged him in the final week of the transfer window to go public with his desire to leave. Mourinho’s information was that Rooney wanted to join them but by that stage it had already been established within United’s boardroom the player would not be allowed to move to Stamford Bridge at any price.
To the direct question of whether he would like to stay at United, Rooney was happy to answer, but only to a point. “You can see I’m playing and I’m happy in my football. I’ll have more discussions with the club and we’ll see what happens from there.” That was as far as Rooney would go on the subject of a new contract, with his present deal expiring at the end of next season.
From United’s point of view, it offers a flicker of encouragement, though not a great deal more. “It’s a bit different in terms of David Moyes and his staff coming in. The training is different, there’s a different style, a different way of thinking about how he wants us to play. Honestly, the training has been so hard.
“I feel that’s really benefited me. I feel as fit as I ever have done. I had a couple of injuries pre-season but I feel great and in good shape. It’s a mixture of things, but I am happy and I am enjoying my football.”