Yesterday was the second time in Wayne Rooney's life that he's been on the outside looking in as Manchester United celebrated winning a Premier League title.
The first time was May 11th, 2003, when Rooney was in the Everton team beaten 2-1 at Goodison by the champions-elect. Afterwards, United were presented with the trophy before a few thousand of their fans in an otherwise-empty stadium.
"I was in the tunnel, watching it all, feeling sick with jealousy, thinking the same thing as everyone else in the ground not connected with United. I need that to be me one day," Rooney wrote in his recent book, My Decade in the Premier League .
If Rooney felt sick with jealousy that day, you wonder how much worse he felt yesterday, booed by many of his own fans when he was eventually allowed to lift the trophy, while the manager who left him out was at the centre of an unprecedented outpouring of hero-worship.
It's less than three years since Rooney squeezed a huge pay rise out of United by threatening to leave. Forcing Alex Ferguson to dance to his tune was the zenith of his power at Old Trafford, and in hindsight it looks like the beginning of the end.
Ferguson decided that he would never again allow Rooney to dictate the agenda. Rooney demanded that United sign top players. Ferguson responded by signing Robin van Persie to play in the position Rooney had come to think of as his own.
(While Rooney used to think of himself as a deep-lying striker, that changed during the 2009/’10 season, when he scored 34 goals, was named PFA Player of the Year and realised that he loved playing up front on his own. Van Persie’s arrival meant the end of all that.)
It was awkward enough that van Persie outshone him from the outset. Being dropped for the match against Real Madrid completed the humiliation for the man who had considered himself the most important at the club. In his book, Rooney recalls the moment in 2006 when Ruud van Nistelrooy was dropped for the League Cup final. He writes “I knew right then that he would probably leave the club in the summer.”
Until last week, Rooney was probably hoping Ferguson would retire and be replaced by a coach with whom he could make a fresh start. Instead, Ferguson will be replaced by Rooney's old boss at Everton, David Moyes.
When you read what Rooney has to say about Moyes in his 2006 book, My Story So Far , it's clear that he did not expect to cross paths with Moyes ever again.
Moyes sued Rooney for libel after Rooney alleged in the book that Moyes leaked details of a private conversation about the player's reasons for wanting to leave Everton to the Liverpool Echo . Rooney accepted the accusation was false, Moyes accepted substantial damages, and they have since supposedly patched up their differences.
However, that was not all Rooney had to say about Moyes in the book. There are two whole chapters concerned with Moyes, called “Trouble with Moyes” and “I Don’t Want To Play For You Ever Again.”
As Rooney details the various petty incidents that strained their relationship, you have to feel sympathy for the man he refers to throughout as “Moyesy”. The trouble usually stems from Rooney’s teenage stroppiness and high opinion of himself.
For instance, Rooney is irritated when Moyes blocks Coleen McLoughlin from accompanying him to the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards. He suspects that Moyes is bitter because Rooney didn't invite him to his 18th birthday party at Aintree, an event which Rooney sold to OK Magazine , to Moyes's supposed displeasure. He is annoyed when Moyes accuses him – jokingly? Rooney's not sure – of breaking the CD player in his car.
At one point Moyes calls Rooney into his office and tells him "Stay away from [Duncan] Ferguson. He's a bad example to you." Rooney immediately tells Ferguson about this in front of all the other players. Another time, Moyes accuses Rooney of "eating too many f***ing McDonalds" and puts him on extra training. Rooney is angry when Moyes sends a physio to ensure he does the extra work properly.
They have a knack for getting on each other’s nerves. When Rooney is presented to the press after signing his first professional contract, he swigs from a big bottle of water on the table. “I could hear Moyesy whispering beside me, ‘Use the f***ing glass!’ I just ignored him . . . ”
Moyes is portrayed as a politician, hungry for credit: “He had carefully and cleverly built up the image of ‘Mr Everton’, the manager of the people’s club . . .” Rooney even claims that Moyes was jealous of his success. “I began to think there was one person who seemed to be a bit upset and envious of what was happening to me – and that was Moyes . . . when he realised I was getting so much of the limelight I felt he resented it.” By the end: “I would have gone anywhere to get away from Liverpool and David Moyes.”
If Rooney and Moyes truly are reconciled after all that, then Moyes has a forgiving heart. We know it’s easy for a football manager to forgive a brilliant player. We don’t yet know whether Moyes thinks Rooney is still brilliant enough.