2013–2017: Such a long waning of the moon!
Many years ago, my wife once dreamt of this line: “When Wayne Rooney becomes Vain Rooney, he becomes Wane Rooney” She woke up and wrote a blog post for her company’s internal newsletter about team-spirit and how the team comes above the individual etc.
In my opinion, Wayne Rooney became or gave proper evidence of being Vain Rooney back in 2010 and had become Wane Rooney by 2012 which is why Sir Alex Ferguson, that wily judge of players had started playing him wide of midfield and even dropped him for key games in his last season. It was time to say good-bye to him.
(This is an opinion piece — so it is going to get very boring if I qualify every sentence with ‘In my opinion’.)
I have tried to look at the managers United have had since SAF by watching how they have dealt with Rooney. I first felt David Moyes was unable to assert himself as a manager when he first said Rooney was on the wane and United is looking for strikers, only to hand him the captain’s arm-band and soothe his ego. He probably didn’t want to be seen as holding a grudge against him. Louis van Gaal, obviously, came in with his own personality and wanted to mould every personality and the whole team the way he thought ideal. What happened to Rooney? He made him his captain because I guess he wanted to maintain a bridge with the traditional United. Of course, the ‘traditional United’ had been forged into the identity of the manager during that time and it was also built on the foundations of personalities, discipline. I also feel it was communicated to LvG that he was supposed to just come in, take United back to winning ways in 3 years and in the meantime, Ryan Giggs would have earned his spurs and then LvG can happily ride into the sunset. If the team was to handed back to the Fergie boy, let’s maintain that link with the Fergie team — so keep Rooney. They also tried to evolve a Scholes-like role for Rooney. As we all know, there were many things which didn’t go well under LvG.
The United hierarchy may have started off with a deliberate strategy of eventually going back to Giggs and there’s no reason to blame them. He was a great player. But do things go according to plan? The Moyes and LvG plans didn’t and after Pep Guardiola was snapped up by City, they had to make a move for Jose Mourinho. And I guess that’s when they started making fresh plans or at least were finally unburdened by the glorious past.
Mourinho getting rid of Giggs was a key indicator for me. He retained Rooney as captain but maintained that he will be his striker. I think Rooney believed he still had it in him to be the striker and Mourinho played him as one just to prove to Rooney and the fans (and probably the press and his agent) that he just isn’t good enough. Then he got injured or so we were told. And then he merged into the shadows. The way Mourinho managed to phase out the current/then English captain, Rooney without the media (and the fans) really noticing it was impressive.
Mourinho has his own style and he has been brought in to do a job. He is neither SAF nor is he promising any return to the SAF days other than the number of trophies he wins for the club. Anyone pining for the good old days is going to get disappointed in more ways than one. So just get on with it!
And today when I read about Rooney going back to Everton, I wonder how long it will take to recover from the impact of the lost years of 2013–2017. Of course, it wasn’t Rooney alone to be blamed for these years but for me, he was the symbol of things not being right.
Wayne Rooney’s last goal was the injury-time record-breaking effort against Stoke City in Fergie time. Well, his career at United has lasted way beyond Fergie time (in more ways than one) Well done — it (was) time to move on.