I think it’s fair to say that Manchester United fans weren’t best pleased with Wayne Rooney at the start of this season after a summer of discontent in which the club faced so many uncertainties.
We didn’t know whether David Moyes would be up to the task of following in the footsteps of Sir Alex Ferguson, which players he would sign with the supposed blank cheque he’d been given and of course, why it was that Ed Woodward had to so urgently fly back from Australia during pre-season.
However, the biggest uncertainty of all was whether or not the club would be able to keep hold of Rooney.
‘Here we go again’ we all thought. This isn’t the first time this has happened and we all know what happened last time – Rooney signed a new contract that would make him the highest paid player at the club.
It’s not as if this news was the product of a poorly written, sensationalised article in the back pages of an ethically deficient red-top tabloid newspaper.
No, it came directly from the mouth of Ferguson. You can’t get more official than that. Cue the barrage of abuse towards the disloyal fat granny shagger.
Subsequently, over the summer, Rooney took a heavy load of criticism from a very fickle set of United fans. Some questioned his integrity and loyalty. Some questioned his ability and suggested that a move away would have been the right choice. All of this despite there being no comment on the matter from Rooney or his agent. Premature, knee-jerk and undeserved criticism towards players (or even the manager) is not something that’s generally associated with United.
Subsequently, Ferguson confirmed that Rooney’s transfer request had never gone any further than a verbal voice of frustration in his office. Nothing had ever been handed in officially.
Swansea away at the start of the season signalled the start of a new era at United with a comprehensive result and performance to match. Guess what dominated the headlines in the aftermath?
A picture taken from the United end showing Wayne Rooney stood by himself as the rest of the team huddled together and celebrated the team’s third goal. He was definitely going to leave United now. It’s not as if he might have been tired after making a bursting run off the ball in order to distract Swansea’s defence which allowed Van Persie room to smash in his second goal of the game, or anything. Premature, knee-jerk and undeserved.
Whilst some United fans were too busy criticising a player that hadn’t publicly expressed his desire to leave the club, Chelsea had become favourites to get his signature but when Mourinho’s men travelled to Old Trafford for Moyes’ first home game as United manager, Rooney put to bed those allegations with a big performance. A turning point.
This season, Rooney has been nothing short of exceptional. To use one of football’s most over-used clichés, it looks like he has a spring in his step. Every time he bursts forward on a United break, it brings me to the edge of my seat. When he makes a lung-bursting effort to track back and defend to the death for his team, he does it with conviction again.
He has started to take players on again and seems to have regained some of his pace too. His vision has improved tenfold and the myth that Rooney and Van Persie can’t play together has been dispelled with both of them enjoying equal freedom in the attacking third this year.
Ever since he burst onto the scene, he’s had an overwhelming amount of pressure to maintain his form and exceed his own abilities and more often than not, he dealt with it. He’s England’s golden boy and ever since he scored that hat-trick on his debut for United, his importance to the club was unqestionable.
We’re not talking about your ordinary player who works hard for his team – the Ji-Sung Parks of this world – but possibly the greatest English talent to emerge in the past decade.
It is worth noting that Rooney is the fourth highest goalscorer in United’s history behind only Jack Rowley, Denis Law and Sir Bobby Charlton. That’s not even the most impressive part of it all. While Sir Bobby scored 249 goals in 758 appearances for the club, Rooney has scored 204 goals in 417 games for the club which means he has over 341 games left to score the 46 goals needed to overtake Sir Bobby.
The beauty of it all is he’s only 28 years and entering the prime of his career. With a minimum of five years of his footballing career still left to play (including his ten year anniversary along the way), he is a dead cert to go on and gently replace Sir Bobby and become United’s all-time top goal-scorer. A feat worthy of immortality within the history books of United and eternal gratitude from supporters for generations to come.
In a recent court case dealing with the phone hacking scandal it emerged that his alleged sexual affair with a ‘granny’ prostitute during his time as an Everton player were in fact false and it also emerged – through a culmination of Sir Alex Ferguson’s autobiography and his own admission – that he did not hand in a second transfer request.
I’m not asking for fans to plaster their bedrooms with posters of Rooney. I’m asking for fans to stop acting so prematurely and appreciate him for his undisputed achievements in a United shirt because I don’t know how long it’ll be before we see another player who is quite like him at Old Trafford again.