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Opinion Piece

Once, Roo would have risen to the challenge

Wayne Rooney“I met with David Gill last week and he did not give me any of the assurances I was seeking about the future squad.

“I then told him that I would not be signing a new contract.

“I was interested to hear what Sir Alex had to say yesterday and surprised by some of it.

“It is absolutely true, as he said, that my agent and I have had a number of meetings with the club about a new contract. During those meetings in August I asked for assurances about the continued ability of the club to attract the top players in the world.

“I have never had anything but complete respect for Manchester United How could I not have done, given its fantastic history and especially the last six years in which I have been lucky to play a part?

“For me its all about winning trophies – as the club has always done under Sir Alex. Because of that I think the questions I was asking were justified.

“Despite recent difficulties, I know I will always owe Sir Alex Ferguson a huge debt. He is a great manager and mentor who has helped and supported me from the day he signed me from Everton when I was only 18.

“For Manchester United’s sake I wish he could go on forever because he’s a one-off and a genius.”

That, in its entirety, is what Wayne Rooney had to say on October 20, 2010 when he announced his decision to part way with Manchester United, a club which, according to him, was not ambitious enough at the time.

I, like the overwhelming majority of Reds, was shocked by those words, for the previous season United – largely thanks to Rooney’s outstanding performances – had coped well in their first year without Cristiano Ronaldo, finishing runners-up to Chelsea in the Premier League and coming within a dodgy ankle of reaching the Champions League semifinals for a third successive year, before squandering a three-goal lead against Bayern Munich.

Although unexpected and infuriating, Rooney’s words could have, in hindsight, made sense for he had carried the club on his shoulders almost single-handedly the previous season and two summers had passed without United engineering anything that could resemble a replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo – not the easiest task in the world, arguably.

To borrow a line very dear to the man himself, I was “angry and confused” at Rooney’s decision to voice his disdain for the club. I was angry at the repercussions his scathing attack to the club would have on Fergie who, in his press conference, came across as a man who had just been backstabbed by his grandson and I was confused because, while we had only managed to win the Carling Cup in the 2009-10 season, we were hardly turning into Liverpool.

imageEver since then, I have never had too much time for Wayne Rooney. I didn’t boo his name nor did I abuse him on Twitter, I simply limited myself to consider him a part of the team and nothing more. Vastly talented, yes, largely crucial in the second half of the 2010-11 season, undoubtedly, but on par with many other less prestigious names in the team.

At the beginning of last season I, like many, had hoped him and Robin Van Persie could produce the sort of frightening partnership we hadn’t seen since the days of Cole and Yorke. Alas, it wasn’t to be, but it mattered very little as United regained the title, before Rooney began agitating for a move.

To be brutally honest, I wouldn’t have had any problems with a transfer request, for if a player is mad enough to leave a club that’s just won the title, then good riddance to him and let’s hope he shuts the door on the way out as, without wanting to venture too far into rhetoric, footballers who have left Old Trafford and gone on to better things might be fascinating stories, but like all fascinating stories they are few and very far between.

I do, however, have a lot of time for Rooney’s decision because he could be one of the first footballers to scale down his ambitions, at an age when many of his colleagues would give a year’s salary to be in his position. Rooney’s made abundantly clear that his uneasiness is borne out of being second fiddle to Robin Van Persie, exactly the sort of player he was desperate for the club to sign when, back in 2010, he accused United of lacking ambitions.

“Ambition”, “desire” and “motivation” are words that should be used with measure and for a man happy to throw this concepts around rather freely, Wayne Rooney spectacularly fails to grasp their meaning. Since he handed in his first transfer request, United have won two league titles, lost one on goal difference and got beaten by arguably the greatest team of the last decade in a Champions League final, while Chelsea, the club closer to signing Rooney, have won the Champions League and the Europa League in successive season, but only lifted one league title in the last seven years and the less said about Arsenal’s record, the better.

Clearly ambition is no longer an issue as far the club is concerned, but it is Rooney’s own ambition that should come under scrutiny here, for a player as fit and at the peak of his powers as he claims to be, would never walk away from a club in which he’s no longer considered an automatic starter, instead he would dig deep and accept the challenge, exactly as a younger Rooney did when he became United’s main man after Ronaldo’s departure.

Apologies, Wayne. It took us three years to realise it, but you were right all along, the club’s ambition doesn’t match yours. It’s infinitely higher.