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Familiar guff from Messi, and a word on England fans/Rooney

So yesterday some journalist — for the 43406th time — asked Lionel Messi who his favourite footballers were. And Messi listed out familiar names — among them, to our interest, was Wayne Rooney.

“At the moment, there are maybe Ronaldo, Rooney, Xavi and one or two more – but I can’t think of one that plays with the desire of Rooney,” he said, conveniently forgetting his Argentine team-mate and resident grafter — or in Ferguson’s words, trier — Carlos Tevez. We actually like this slight, however inadvertent it might have been.

“It would be a dream to play with Rooney if Manchester United ever came to the point where they needed to sell him,” Messi told the Daily Star.

You know what Lionel; here’s an idea. You love the game a lot. Rooney loves the game a lot. Money is not a factor for you. You love playing with Rooney. So why don’t you come to Manchester, have a kickabout with Rooney, or better still: buy out your contract with Barcelona, and come play for us at Manchester United for £100 (yes, not million) a week, you know, because we can’t really afford you right now? I’m sure Rooney would love to play alongside you too.

Anyway, he goes on and on, and it’s a bit odd, seeing him go on and on about it in the midst of the world cup. We’ll let out a collective groan, a sigh, and move on to other things.

* * *

We all know about the Wayne Rooney outburst: “Nice to see your own fans booing you. If that’s what loyal support is.”

There’s been a predictable media storm over Rooney and it’s been tied with his piss-poor performances for England. Of course, they are also demonizing Capello — the same manager who presided over a fairly successful qualification campaign for England. [There have been some glaring blunders by Capello, over the past two matches, but that’s a discussion for another day.]

The issues at hand here are two-fold. One: the booing of the players in the dying minutes of the game by England fans, and two: Rooney losing it in front of camera, taking a shot at said fans for said behaviour.

I’ve always held the view that booing one’s own players is very counterproductive and retarded. Especially on the pitch, during the match. As it is players are down, and if you’re booing them, you are sucking out the very remnants of confidence they may have left in them. In club football, in England, fans of almost all clubs have been tolerant of their players. United fans, I know have had very few instances of actual booing in stadiums. There were a few isolated incidents in the past when Nani and Berbatov got stick. But even when that’s happened it’s been largely muted. As Scott pointed out, in his article yesterday that during the 1-4 defeat at OT against Liverpool, fans chanted, “We love United, we do.” And I’m glad we see that level of support with not only United fans, but by and large, most clubs in the league.

With England fans I have little sympathy, especially the kind we see at Wembley, where instances of booing have been much more frequent. United fans have justifiably — however irrational it might be — a lot of reasons to not show any sympathy for England fans given the history with Beckham, Neville, Rooney et al. But after the Algeria draw, I felt, even in my moment of schadenfreude at another England failure, a sense of sympathy for those fans who either quit their job, or took time off their lives, for an expensive trip to South Africa for the privilege of having to see — in Valdano’s words — shit served on sticks. A sober man would be livid to be in the midst of this madness — a nightmare, surely. What of 10,000 inebriated supporters then?

So, I can understand where they’re coming from (England, of course, but that’s not what I meant, obviously) and I can make an exception on this occasion. However — there is a ‘however’, but you have to read what I have to say about Rooney first.

Just as the crowd’s boos were from a raving-mad, angry mob, Rooney’s outburst was the result of a player’s reaction to a no-confidence vote from his own fans. That and Rooney’s own temperament, which has been reigned in under the Capello regime. [Now there’s a debate on whether Capello should have allowed Rooney to be himself, but it’s not a debate I am interested to get into, because that’s once again digressing from the points I want to make here.]

But just as the crowd’s boos are perfectly understandable, so is Rooney’s reaction.

We could revert to the cliched argument that players are paid by the millions and are supposed to reign themselves in even if a crowd insults his entire family lineage. But that argument is really not meant to be applied to every scenario involving a player. Yes, Rooney and co deserved every bit of blame for such an insipid performance, but let’s not forget the context. He’s not used to repeated failures at United. Even in moments of abject failure, as some matches last season have been, he’s got the undying support of his fans. And he’s used to playing in a system with players of arguably higher calibre and technical skill for much of his United career than he’s with England. All things considered, it’s perhaps liberating for someone like him to vent when tempers were frayed. And, guess what, he apologized the next day. Most players are supposed to do this anyway.

Sure, he might not have meant it. Or maybe he might have. But publicly he’s offered something, as players usually end up doing, to the fans, and one hopes England fans in South Africa understand that and move on to giving them the full support they will need.

But will they understand? Will the English tabloids understand?

Oh wait, who are we kidding here? News of the World are already doing their bit. “ROONEY OUT OF CONTROL!” apparently. Sigh.

The article is a bit unclear because it seems to talk more about general player dissent over Capello’s attitude than a few throwaway lines that Rooney is behaving like a spoilt-brat.

As United fans we know that despite the red mist that envelopes him, he’s usually been a selfless player for his side, often to his own detriment. Unless there’s been a team-wide unrest among players, I find it odd Rooney would be acting like a prick.

There’s little good about this England side anyway. I don’t really care if they beat Slovenia. They aren’t going that far if they put out the same side. Right now it’s begging for someone creative. But then there are many other articles offering expert advice to Capello on how to put out a decent side. So I’ll pass.