A lot of people don’t like Wayne Rooney. There are a number of reasons for this; he has allegedly played around on his wife with members of the world’s oldest profession. He has also asked Manchester United for transfer requests on two occasions in order to negotiate a more favourable contract for himself. So, he is not everybody’s cup of tea. And this is often used as a stick to beat him with.
The uncomfortable truth is that Wayne Rooney has played badly in United’s opening two fixtures of the season and this Monday morning there is a lot of scrutiny on his position in the team. Louis van Gaal declaring he has special privileges in the side because of his captaincy and that he will spearhead the team for the season does not help matters. But, as usual, it is too soon to head for the panic stations.
It was noticeable in 2008, during Rooney’s first great contract standoff, how popular one of my articles was. At the time, I wrote an open letter to Wayne telling him to go and that it would be good riddance if he left. At the time, it was by far the most read article that I had written.
Since then, my perspective has changed. Roy Keane also used hard-line tactics to negotiate one of his contracts and so did Rio Ferdinand. Nobody would dispute their worth to the club during their premium years and I certainly don’t begrudge them for being well remunerated. There is the lingering suspicion that Rooney is disliked because he hails from Liverpool originally.
A common argument is that Rooney has not lived up to his potential and his best years have gone to waste. The numbers don’t lie though. A man who has logged better career statistics than Bobby Charlton can hardly be called a failure. He has won every trophy available to him domestically and cannot be faulted for not winning an FA Cup after being man of the match in both the 2005 and 2007 finals.
His record at international tournaments has been patchy but he has turned up to every tournament injured, knackered or suspended. England scored two goals in their horror show in Brazil. Rooney scored one of them and set up the other.
There is little point defending Rooney with logic though because much of the vitriol he receives is because people don’t like him. Fair enough, but if that is the reason you criticise, why not acknowledge that? His football consistently does the talking.
This is why when he plays badly for two games the full force of Beelzebub is directed towards him. This is the pressure that the top players can expect. Rooney knows he has had a couple of poor performances and there can be any number of reasons for this. It is too early to toll the bell on his career as some have done.
He may well benefit from the arrival of a new striker though. In the past, the number ten has responded well to competition in the squad.
It seems unlikely that he will just drift away. There have been plenty of opportunities of him to do that already in his career and Rooney has always stormed back. At the start of a new season, lots of players need to play themselves into form. The captain is no different.
With Pedro expected to arrive from Barcelona this week, Rooney will have to up his game to keep his place in the team. He will do it too.
The truly important news this Monday is that my new stickers have arrived (pictured), look out for them.
Follow Mark on www.twitter.com/markjpayne