As a lifelong Manchester United fan, Rooney was my favourite United player till last week.
It seems almost childish to talk about ‘favourite’ players when you’re a football journalist, but this is no time for keeping up pretenses. Ruud was a legend, but he was gone. Ronaldo was unstoppable, but he wasn’t a fighter. Rooney was here, he was young, he would shed blood for United, and as his introduction to Champions League football (hat-trick on debut) proved, he was bloody good).
We shouldn’t build up players into more than what they are, but we do. It’s how we, as a society, perceive people from afar. When your access to them is limited to news clippings and selective TV viewings, not to mention coloured by the heavy PR unloaded on to the masses by today’s ‘celebrities’, seeing the truth is asking for too much.
The name of the author escapes me, but an editorial on the Guardian at the start of this Rooney story started with a comparison of Rooney’s return from Euro 2004 to Everton and his return from the World Cup 2010 to Manchester United. It was a damning illustration – when the time came for Rooney to trade in his reputation for a bigger paycheck, he did it quickly, without emotion and with short shrift given to ‘club loyalty’.
United fans (and almost everyone else) now know what Everton fans have known for 6 years – Rooney’s ‘image’ is handcrafted by agents, his public statements are drafted by Stretford’s team, and everything we have come to love about his personality is a manufactured reality.
We can go on and on about United’s ‘financial problems’, or Rooney’s desire to win ‘trophies’, or Glazers, or who the whore really is now, but it’s all just smoke designed to conceal the real issue.
And now he has a new contract at United, till 2015, worth at least £150k / week and probably more, burnt bridges with fans and team-mates to rebuild and of course, a ceaseless transfer saga that will see him linked to other clubs every transfer window until he retires or leaves (and after what’s happened recently, my money is on the latter).
Money over fans / respect? I suppose the fans are easy to please, they will flock to him again after a few goals, but respect? When you’re earning £150,000 / week playing a game, does it matter?
I didn’t think so. Neither would titles, apparently, as Rooney has just judged United’s ambition by their ability to pay his agent more money.