English Premier League: Weekly wrap – Wayne’s world
Things just haven’t been the same for Sir Alex Ferguson and Wayne Rooney since October 2010. His brave contract standoff drove a wedge between the legendary coach and his so-called world-class talisman.
After a brief flirtation with a possible transfer to Real Madrid, Manchester City, Chelsea or Perth Glory (remember that? Thanks, Robbie Fowler), Rooney was eventually convinced by Fergie to stick around at Old Trafford, penning a fresh five-year deal to the end of 2015.
That was meant to settle everything, and the England star was meant to get back to his best. Only he hasn’t. And Sir Alex, it appears, is starting to cotton on to that.
Predictably, the rumours about a potential Manchester United exit for the 26-year-old have been dismissed as ‘rubbish’, and let’s face it – they probably are.
But fans are going to get a taste of what life without Rooney would be like for the next little while.
The gash to his leg he sustained against Fulham looks set to keep him out for potentially as much as two months, which gives both club and player a good opportunity for a much-needed break.
Sir Alex, with a brand new system and key signings Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa in tow, can press on with the task of getting the title back with the out-of-form Rooney out of his way.
As for Wayne, it’s probably time to sit back, recover from his injury and have a wee bit of a think.
After an incredibly demanding 10 Premier League seasons and a rollercoaster last couple of years, his mind and body could both do with a spell.
The important question is, where does he think he is at?
Last season, Rooney scored 27 goals from 34 appearances in the Premier League and played everywhere from up front, in the hole, deep in midfield to even fullback at one stage.
But there was something missing, and whatever it was hasn’t been seen since. The truth is Rooney has been woeful since, at the very least, the end of the 2011-2012 campaign, when Manchester United were now-famously pipped for the title by Maradona’s son-in-law.
Rooney’s Euro 2012 campaign is best forgotten, while in his first full game this term – the 1-0 loss away to former club Everton – he was lumbering, laborious and just painful to watch.
This isn’t the ‘Roo’ we’ve come to know.
Ferguson has not ever really been in a position to drop him, even though he’s more than deserved it. But now with van Persie and Kagawa combining to form a positive, cohesive and creative partnership, he can.
One is a proven Premier League marksman. One is the kind of string-puller United have been missing for years.
And Rooney hasn’t been at his awe-inspiring best since the club’s cross-town rivals became relevant.
In fact, it only took him one game for Ferguson to lose his patience.
And given how much better United looked against Fulham with RVP leading the line, running onto smart balls from Kawaga and with energy and movement from Antonio Valencia and Tom Cleverley in midfield, it was the right move to pull him out of the starting XI.
No, he hasn’t turned crap overnight. In fact, he’s not crap. He’s still Wayne Rooney, and he’s still in a position to be a first-choice player for Manchester United when he comes back.
But that’s if he wants to. Because now, Sir Alex has no reason to lean on him like he has in the past. He has two new options and two young strikers – Danny Welbeck and Chicharito – who are starving for opportunity.
If Rooney’s slump continues after his layoff, and his attitude, demeanour and fitness stay below par, and the team goes on without him, Ferguson will make good on the paper talk and cash in.
Clearly, Rooney has more than just a nasty cut on his right thigh that needs to heal.
At 26, this should be the prime of his career. It’s time he asked himself if he’s already reached his ceiling, or if he’s ready to repay the faith a forgiving Sir Alex showed in him.
Vince Rugari is an Adelaide-born journalist who cut his teeth on the sporting graveyard that is the Gold Coast. He fancies the round ball and the Sherrin, and used to be a handy leg-spin bowler before injury curtailed a baggy green push. He is a Port Adelaide fan by birth, as painful as that has been recently. He's now sports editor of The Area News in Griffith, NSW.