WE doom-mongers already had enough to complain about this week before Wayne Rooney stuck his oar in, thank you very much.
The calamitous financial results which have prompted a protest march to be planned for the Spurs match; Liverpool escaping their Texan hell and potentially becoming a threat once more; City moving above us in the league and a large section of Old Trafford fans disgracing our tradition by booing the team off on Saturday.
All that would normally have filled this column today, together with some choice words about grim Fergie déjà vu in his daft substitutions costing us two points for the second time in a fortnight.
Instead, there’s only one subject in town. And I say ‘in town’ advisedly, because it seems our Blue neighbours are going to be as involved in this saga as much as us henceforth.
I’m writing this 10 minutes after Fergie’s extraordinary press conference which, only 48 hours after United labelled the swirling Rooney stories (such as mine last week) as “nonsense”, lifted the veil on what turns out to have been two months of organised deception. For Rooney told United he wanted away on August 14, and the former (esteemed) Guardian reporter Paul Kelso has now revealed he was being reliably told City had made Rooney an offer by August 19. Yet, comically, one Sunday paper was still running quotes from Rooney last weekend in which the player was banging on about “wanting to stay at United for life” – and, naturally, United have vociferously denied every single ‘Rooney unhappy?’ tale since the summer.
It’s yet another reminder of the usefulness of one of my most used maxims: never believe anything anyone in football says on the record. (And as if right on cue comes a Man City source straight-facedly assuring The Guardian that they “only started thinking about moving for Rooney in the past week.” Pah. Not for nothing are that club nicknamed The Liars by Reds.)
At some point, there’ll be a brief conflagration about City having possibly ‘tapped’ Rooney but that ought to be a 24 hour wonder, given United’s serial offences in that department. We will also doubtless hear some ‘United insider’ guff about Rooney being past his best, or even a potential Best in the making. Then there’ll be some would-be high-minded moralising from Camp Rooney about the player’s supposed unhappiness with United’s lack of ambition and the Glazers’ malevolent influence (which, to be fair, Rooney was muttering about a bit in the prints last May). On and on it will go, way beyond the date he actually leaves, making the Beckham Brouhaha look like a mere Page 17 filler.
Yet surely there are only two truly determinant factors at root here: money, and the Fergie-Rooney personal relationship. The latter was never quite as close as the propagandists would have you believe but still it is clear a catastrophic breach must have occurred, despite Fergie’s unconvincing pleadings at the press conference.
The former factor is even simpler: City – if it is indeed to be them — could double whatever Gill might have rustled up from down the back of the Gimps’ sofa. Rooney is a professional, owes United nothing, and is an Everton fan: so what other consideration ought he be expected to take on board? Six years’ service is a good Red stretch for any player, and no-one can argue he didn’t deliver, and thrill, and inspire. There’ll be a lot of Red bile squirted at him in the days and weeks to come, of course: we’re the cuckolded husbands here. And we will probably all publicly rally behind Fergie, as we did over Ruud, Becks, Stam and others. But make no mistake: amongst ourselves, the inquest is going to be brutally forensic. Because we loved him being a Red: and – Lordy – how we would hate him being a Blue.
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