Wayne Rooney vs the world

Paul Parker has pissed me off. Apparently he’s been out of the game so long he’s forgotten how difficult it is. He’s forgotten how much he wanted to play, how his aging body slowly, methodically betrayed him. Forgotten how quick his mind still was, even if his legs couldn’t always respond. Forgotten to respect. These days, he’s just another fanboy. He’s happy to jump on the Wayne Rooney Must Go bandwagon, saying the Manchester United captain is slow, overweight, a marketing asset but a playing liability. Well, I call bullshit.

The difference between Parker and Rooney is the latter has contributed far more to the club, and, despite the predominant fanboy party line, has far more still to contribute. Rooney’s not nearly at the point where all he’s good for is to pop up on some minor media outlet (I mean you, Bleacher Report) spouting off about his betters to get his name back in the limelight. Yes, he’s older. He’s slower. Can you say Frank Lampard at City, or Andrea Pirlo at Juventus? Maybe he’s even spent too much time in the Carrington dining room buffet line. But Wayne Rooney still has enough pace to make the occasional mazy run like the one last season against Palace. He still has the wherewithal to be in the right place to head a wayward clearance past Artur Boruc to give Man United an all important two-goal cushion in the season opener against Bournemouth.

That goal was far more important to the outcome than Zlatan Ibrahimović’s, which followed. Yet, the Swede’s strike is the one being lauded by every football journalist and his mother. Ibra and Paul Pogba are United’s flavor of the moment, whereas Rooney is week old leftovers. This despite the fact Zlatan is just as slow, just as lost for long stretches of matches, and four years Rooney’s senior. The difference is probably the tall, more nutritionally challenged former Ajax, Inter, Juve, Milan, Barça, and PSG man hasn’t allowed anyone to coach the belligerence out of his nature. No one would dare call Ibra an old, washed up, anchor weighing down his club. Not to his face.

Rooney, by contrast has learned, somewhat to his detriment, to sacrifice himself for the team. He’s just not ready, as yet, to make the ultimate sacrifice by leaving the club. And why should he? If you’ve been watching the few matches when they’ve been on the pitch together, Rooney and Ibra have developed a definite chemistry. One Ibra apparently appreciates. Their won’t be any war of words in the British press like there was with Edinson Cavani in Paris. Rooney and Ibra know where the other is and will be, and create space for one another. If one goes back for the ball, the other occupies the opposing center backs.

Last season, the lack of understanding between Rooney and Anthony Martial, Memphis Depay, Jesse Lingard, or whoever was a constant criticism. No one filled the space the captain vacated. Alternatively, the fault was given to Louis van Gaal’s rigid system, and Rooney’s wanderlust. Well, under José Mourinho, the attacking players have freedom to move into open spaces. Just ask Lingard, who admitted as much in an interview after the Community Shield. With Van Gaal dictating playing style, Rooney went goalless in how many matches to start the campaign? With Mourinho calling the shots and a strong partner in Ibra, it took less than an hour for the first tally to come. Expect more.

Despite the trust they’ve placed in Mourinho, which for me is very guarded, a lynch mob mentality has developed when it comes to Rooney. Much of the rancor is derived from Rooney’s protracted contract holdout, during which he or his unfortunately named agent, Paul Stretford, hinted he could sign for nouveau-riche City. Baclava-clad thugs even staked out Wayne’s house, hinting in no uncertain terms what might happen should he don a sky-blue kit. No one did that down Merseyside way when Steven Gerrard was flirting with Chelsea. No one did it to Carlos Tevez, either. The attitude with the Argentine was, “meh, let him go to the dark side if he likes.” That should tell you how much Wayne Rooney was wanted by United fans. How much he was valued.

When the club re-signed him, Rooney did everything asked. Move into a supporting role for Robin van Persie? Sure. Cover for the lack of talent in midfield? No problem. Move back up front again? Okay. Athletics is all about practice, repetition, drilling yourself into a routine which becomes so second-nature you don’t have to think; your actions become instinctive. Except Rooney was asked to learn new roles, develop new skills, to forget then relearn old habits. As he went through this period of forced inconsistency, the squad deteriorated around him. He had no defined role, and no support. Now, he has both. United supporters should be anticipating a renaissance similar to that of Ryan Giggs. Instead, they want their longest-serving player, the one who knows better than any other what it means to wear the United shirt, gone.

The attitude is ridiculous. It’s shameful. It’s pathetic. It’s a betrayal not only of the player who has given so much, but of the United ethos: youth, courage, greatness. Rooney came to the club from Everton as a youth. He showed the courage to become captain for both club and country. Along the way, he has scored 245 goals for United, and 53 more for England. He has won more trophies in a red shirt than any other club legend. Yet, United fans would deny him that indisputable greatness. They have hung a sign in the Old Trafford window: Immortals wanted. Humans need not apply. Now a former player who could never reach the heights Rooney has is pandering to their bloodlust. Paul Parker, you disgust me.

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  1. As much I agree with most of what you have written, I still can’t forget both episodes of him holding the club to ransom. Trying to dictate the transfer policy too, when all said and done he and his agent would happily swan off down the road to the emptihad for the sake of 5k more a week. Real legends wouldn’t do that. Finally he is a scouser too, let’s not forget that.

    1. Again, Steven Gerrard did the same thing, as did Tevez. It’s called negotiating. No player should be held to account for getting the best deal he can from his club. Nor should his criticism of transfer policy be an issue. That was a product of his desire to win, which I presume you share. In the end he signed, the club didn’t bring anyone in, other than direct competition for him, and look where we are.

  2. Brilliant piece, totally agree with you. Short memories some people and anti Rooney due to being scouse and this nonesense he held the club to ransom, hasn’t Pogba done that and failed then we spend 89mil and the boy returns ?. Ronaldo left us yet he is a legend, yet the guy who stays and who as carried the team for a while gets the stick? Get behind the guy and enjoy his last few years with the club, he always gives his all the least we can do is give him the backing a club legend yes ledgend deserves. England’s top scorer and hopefully soon to be Uniteds, many have tried to beat this and with a lot more credit than Rooney as had.

  3. This is an absolutely ridiculous piece. Rooney and Ibra have no understanding at this point with both occupying the same zones. Rooney is supposedly playing as a No.10 but looking at his heat map it’s clearly obvious that he spent a decent amount of time in between the central defenders. He doesn’t have a first touch let alone a decent one. How many counters are slowed down and killed due to his lack of speed. He doesn’t have the class of a Gerrard/Scholes/Pirlo to fall back and play as a deep lying playmaker. Nor does he have the craft of genuine top quality No 10. If he is playing at the expense of playing Mata on the right wing or Mikhitariyan on the bench then if its not because of the name how else do you justify that?
    Paul Parker may not have been as good a player as Rooney in his prime but he has a right to have his own opinion just like the rest of us.
    For Wayne Rooney, I don’t think that people’s opinion matter at this stage of his career but if the performances were to change he would see a decrease in the “JUSTIFIED” criticism.

    1. You’re entitled to your opinion, but a heat map is not chronological. It doesn’t show where a player is at a given moment in the game, only over the course of the entire match. Therefore, you can’t use it to say Ibra and Rooney are occupoying the same space at the same time. During the Bournemouth match they alternated, with one coming back to the midfield, and the other playing forward. That’s why Ibra’s audacious overhead lob put Rooney in. It’s why Rooeny was in the box to head in the second goal of the match, and Ibra was not standing next to him. It’s why Rooney is some distance to one side when Ibra makes his diagonal run that resulted in the third goal.The two are on the record as enjoying playing together, and appreciating the other’s skills. It is still a partnership in development, but it is developing well.

  4. Not sure why an article full of references to what he has done in the past has any relevance on his current form? I couldn’t care less what he’s done in the past if he’s not performing. You talk about space and understanding with Zlatan yet no mention of him missing 2 chances he should have scored? He’s a United player and I want him to do well but no point sticking your head in the sand – he’s not as effective as he was and hasn’t been for 2/3 years, we now have better players for the 8/6 roles and arguably for the 10 role depending on where Pogba is deployed.

    1. I think the article also mentions his performance in the past two matches, in tandem with Ibra. Regardless, the point of his past accomplishes is the experience he has accumulated. When players adapt to limited physical abilities in the latter stage of their career, that experience is a tool they use to compensate.

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