Manchester United: Where Did It All Go Wrong for Wayne Rooney?
Fresh on the news of his second transfer request, it seems the Englishman's Old Trafford career is entering the beginning of the end (via ManUtd.com). Rooney's on-off love affair with the Premier League champions has been an insidious one and looks to have finally trickled away.
Where did it all go wrong? Read on to find out.
The Luxuries of Life
Wayne Rooney is a man of simple pleasures; as long as those pleasures are fried, doused in ketchup and washed down with a swift pint.
It's no secret the 27-year-old likes to indulge in life's greasier attractions during preseason, between games and even after top performances. Rooney discussed the difficulties of keeping in shape throughout his recently released book, My Decade in the Premier League (via The Daily Mirror):
"Even if I don’t train for a week, I put on two or three, but when I get back to Carrington for the first day of work, I’m in for a shock.
The scales in the club gym tell me I’ve put on a few more pounds than expected – seven. Seven!
Then I remember – I drank a few bevvies while I was away. I’m stocky. I’m not like Ryan Giggs, all bone and lean muscle."
This is absolutely true—Rooney is not like Ryan Giggs. For a player who understands he is stocky and needs to work hard, the England international seems to struggle with weight problems every time he faces any stint away from the pitch. We saw it in 2008 and have certainly seen it during the 2012-13 season.
If Rooney took his body as seriously as Giggs, maybe he would have a chance at remaining a professional footballer into his 40th year as well.
First Transfer Request
Wayne Rooney's first Manchester United transfer request was handed in with an agenda. In October 2010, after the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, Rooney suggested the Red Devils lacked ambition to sign the world's best players (via The Daily Mail).
Links to Manchester City, Chelsea, Real Madrid and just about every other rich team ensued (via The Guardian). With United at his beckoning, many suggested Rooney was holding the club to ransom for a pay increase. Indeed, the forward was awarded a £180,000 per-week deal that almost doubled his previous wages (via Evening Standard).
United fans forgave Rooney this major blip and continued to support him on the pitch like nothing had happened. Underneath the improved contract, Rooney now had to prove he could lead the club to greatness in absence of the aforementioned talents who moved on to pastures new.
Robin Van Persie's Arrival
It's ironic that, after saying United lacked ambition to sign world-class players, Rooney's most telling Old Trafford career problem came with the arrival of Robin van Persie.
To put it simply, Rooney is no longer the most important forward at the club. Although he needs to produce a substantial amount of goals and assists, he is not the player fans look toward to win games. Van Persie's transfer from Arsenal trod on the toes of an individual who wouldn't regularly feature in the traditional strikers role during the 2012-13 season.
Rooney's forced transition to midfield has been a difficult one. Although his determination and hard work are more suited to this position, his clumsiness on the ball is not. Rooney the powerhouse forward is no more (not at Old Trafford, anyway).
A string of poor performances after Christmas 2012 suggested Rooney was no longer a natural fit for the United cause. His dribbling isn't tight enough in the midfield area and his distribution often succumbs to sloppiness. During his 27 Premier League appearances in the 2012-13 campaign, it's telling that Rooney completed an average of 0.4 dribbles per game and was dispossessed an average of 1.9 times every match.
Relegation to the Bench
Of course, such displays saw the icon relegated to Manchester United's bench for the Champions League Round of 16 second-leg tie against Real Madrid.
Sir Alex Ferguson made an enormous call to leave his struggling player out. Even in poor form, many managers would start Rooney in the hope that his performance level suddenly increased. Until Nani's unfortunate sending off, it's safe to say Ferguson's decision well and truly paid off, as United looked like the only winners in a game that would end in controversy.
Rooney has felt this treatment before. Calling on his book for inspiration once again, the competitive player doesn't take kindly to sitting out (via The Daily Mirror):
"[After United thrashed Wigan 5-0] I go out for dinner with a few of the lads, and our other halves, to a hotel.
The next day, the manager pulls me up and tells me he’s not happy and doesn’t feel I’ve trained properly.
He fines me, but there’s worse to come. I’m dropped for the next game, on New Year’s Eve, against Blackburn.
At a lot of clubs, people wouldn’t bat an eyelid at players having a night out six days before a game. But that’s the difference at Manchester United and a mark of the high standards the manager demands.
It’s a big deal, another lesson learned."
United went on to lose the match 3-2, a result that would have huge ramifications come the end of the season when Manchester City claimed the Premier League title on goal difference. Despite acknowledging he wouldn't make the mistake again, it appears Rooney didn't learn another lesson after all.
Second Transfer Request
"I said on Wednesday the manager's a genius and it's his belief and support that convinced me to stay."
Now that Sir Alex has decided to retire—and seemingly confirmed Rooney's second transfer request in three years—it is unlikely the outgoing manager will convince the former Everton man to sign another contract (via ESPN). Although United have officially rejected Rooney's request, one has to consider whether Manchester United fans want him to remain at Old Trafford.
Rooney's heart is no longer invested in the club. One transfer request can be forgiven, but two will not be forgotten. The forward's mixed reception when collecting his Premier League winners' medal was audible after the recent victory over Swansea.
With David Moyes coming in, this is the perfect time for Rooney and Manchester United to part ways. Both can start afresh, as the player and surroundings no longer fit. His transfer fee and freeing up of wages would provide United's new Scotsman with the funds to begin building his own legacy—one that must also begin by highlighting how no player is bigger than the club.
Where did Wayne Rooney's Manchester United career go wrong? Let me know in the comments section below and be sure to follow me on Twitter:
All statistics in this article are courtesy of Whoscored.
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