Wayne Rooney’s track record clearly shows where his loyalties lie
Manchester United striker will look after number one if the club allow him to
Wayne Rooney in action with his boyhood club Everton in 2003. He would soon join Manchester United and go on to greater things.Photograph By Clive Brunskill/Getty Images.
Once a Blue, always a Blue. So said Wayne Rooney, once upon a time.
Rooney was an Evertonian then, the son of a Blue father who wanted to call his son Adrian after Adrian Heath but was talked out of it. Wayne Rooney senior made up for it though when another son came along. He called him Graeme and inserted Sharp as a middle name. Wayne snr was taking no chances.
Later his eldest son, Wayne, would pen letters to Barlinnie prison, where Duncan Ferguson found temporary accommodation. Rooney’s Blueness was not in question. Then he joined Manchester United. The always-Blue became a Red.
That was nine years ago this month, when Rooney was 18. Since then he has won five Premier League titles, a European Cup, two League Cups and Footballer of the Year.
Along the way Rooney has scored 197 goals, 52 short of Bobby Charlton’s club record. Stay another two seasons and Rooney could become the leading goalscorer at one of the most famous clubs of all time. It is an ambition not be sniffy about.
Yet there is something uncertain about Rooney and United and with Chelsea arriving at Old Trafford on Monday night, there is a question as to whether Blue will be his colour again.
That Chelsea have bid for Rooney is a matter of public record, as confirmed by Jose Mourinho. That Mourinho should discuss the mere possibility of luring Rooney to Stamford Bridge feels like strong evidence – in professional football terms – that there has been a back-channel discussion between Chelsea and Rooney’s people and that the idea of a transfer appeals.
Had Chelsea been offered no encouragement there would have been no bid. But there has been no transfer, as yet. Last Saturday evening Rooney appeared as a 62nd-minute substitute for Ryan Giggs (soon to be 40) at Swansea. United were leading 2-0 at the time and Rooney joined in sweetly and set up two more goals in a 4-1 victory.
As is the way of things, attention centred less on the beautiful first-time pass that Rooney delivered in the build-up to the third United goal and more on the celebration of the fourth, when Rooney was conspicuous by his distance from his red colleagues. This, however, ignored the fact that he was injured supplying the final ball to Danny Welbeck. The image of Rooney’s isolation fed an agenda, one which may include the player’s.
But Rooney remains at United. There has been an interpretation of this – and the non-movement (so far) of Luis Suarez from Liverpool – as a sign that player-power has at last been challenged by the money Premier League clubs have received from the bumper new TV contract.
There is more than one element to any transfer and to say club-power as opposed to player-power defines Rooney’s situation seems simplistic.
Rooney, it must be said, does not have the demeanour of a carefree United devotee. His last United goal came back in March and after that his deteriorating relationship with Alex Ferguson saw the player miss the last two games of the season – Ferguson’s last two historic games, home and away, as United manager.
It is hard to imagine the differences between Ferguson and David Moyes being sizable but, for example, does Moyes wish to be known as the man who sold Rooney twice? Does Moyes want to sell Rooney to Mourinho and see him prosper under the Portuguese smirk?
As for United as club, they have the evidence of Robin van Persie’s signing and what it did to Arsenal and Arsene Wenger. Can they allow their new manager to sell a big name before they buy one?
Speculation of a swap deal involving Juan Mata sounds plausible but still entails United watching Rooney at Chelsea.
We have been here with Rooney before, of course. In 2010, having been prepared apparently to join City, Rooney questioned United’s signings and ambition. After a week of turbulence, he signed a new five-year contract on improved terms. He apologised but the fans did not forget. You can imagine Ferguson hardly forgot either.
Rooney got his money and, as of last year, he received what he might have thought would be a striking partner. But Van Persie soon became number one. The Dutchman played in every league game, Rooney started 22. Now Rooney is still not in the team, albeit a ropey injury tale has been cited.
This will leave the player understandably questioning his future, particularly if Mourinho has told him he would be starting every week at Chelsea. And even though Mourinho has nabbed Willian from under Tottenham’s nose, Rooney would still represent a coup.
It all makes for intrigue and few teamsheets will carry the anticipation of United’s on Monday night. Where and if Rooney’s name appears on it should be telling but if it is absent then Chelsea’s next Premier League game could be even more fascinating. It will be after the international break. It’s at Everton.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Celtic badly need to show their creative side
Neil Lennon sounded upbeat and defiant following Celtic’s 2-0 defeat to Shakhtar Karagandy on Tuesday, in contrast to the television commentary coming from ITV which used words such as “embarrassing” to describe the result and some of Celtic’s defending.
What Lennon and Celtic need to be in the return leg in Glasgow on Wednesday is creative. Aside from Celtic’s dawdling defending in Karagandy, what distinguished the Kazakhstan team was their discipline and shape.
If they could get 12 men behind the ball at Parkhead, they would.
Had Celtic taken just one of their chances then Wednesday would hold nothing like the anxiety it does from here.
But now they need to score three times and given the financial implications the stakes are enormous, for club, players, manager and Scottish football.
At the moment last season’s Champions League campaign is viewed with pride at Celtic. Exit on Wednesday and the view will begin to turn to nostalgia.
And it’s much too soon for that.
Considering he cost €17.5 million from Roma, Pablo Osvaldo’s transfer to Southampton this week came under the radar. But if he is as good as the fee suggests, and Sunderland defend corners as they did against Fulham last Saturday, then Southampton can make it two wins from two today.
How the Saints accommodate Rickie Lambert and Osvaldo is a local debate. By five o’clock Sunderland defender John O’Shea is likely to have his own opinion on that.