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The Two Sides of the Wayne Rooney Coin

Mary O'SheaSenior Writer IMay 11, 2009

MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 22:   Wayne Rooney of Manchester United in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Portsmouth at Old Trafford on April 22, 2009 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Passionate player or petulant hothead?

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney is a player hugely admired throughout the world of football.

He has immense talent, power in his shot, and no one can question that he is a team player.

However, at times, Rooney's hot-headed nature can get to him. His lashing out at other players often sees him in trouble with officials, which can lead to suspension, thus having an adverse reaction on his team.

Is this just a young man being passionate, or is it him being petulant?

Just as with Arsene Wenger, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Nicklas Bendtner, Rooney's character and playing style can be looked at through the analogy of a coin.

In a deviation from the normal style of this series, in Rooney's case two Bleacher Creatures will go head to head.

Maire Ofeire will look at the negatives attributed to Rooney, which will be labeled as the coin's "head" side.

On the flip side of the coin, LJS will look at Rooney's positives and what he gives to football.

As usual, it will be up to the reader to debate whether he or she thinks Rooney's coin is heads, tails, or just somewhere in the middle.

Heads

For a striker, Wayne Rooney doesn't score enough, often enough. He has patches where he scores a lot of cracking goals, but are patches really good enough for a title-contending team like Manchester United?

He does get and create a lot of opportunities, but it seems as if his finishing lets him down far too often.

Tails

Soccer is a team game. Rooney started out as an out and out striker, but then he settled into the role of the vintage left forward or right forward.

I think his biggest strength turns out to be his Achilles' heel as well. He isn’t selfish enough for a striker, the UEFA semis 2009 against Arsenal being a prime example. Rooney had a shot at the third goal, but the probabilities were lower for him scoring. His shot at the onion bag had a lower probability of going in than if he passed it to Ronaldo.

Hence, absolutely unselfishly, he passed it to Ronaldo. He might not score as much as you want a striker to, but his attitude of prioritizing the team before his own goal counts has been exemplary.

I think Sir Alex Ferguson and the Man United management absolutely realize that. Fabio Capello raised the same point when he talked about Wayne Rooney; sometimes he felt Rooney was even defending in games, and he encouraged Rooney to be more selfish.

If it’s a question of whether I want Rooney to score more, or Man United/England to win more with his unselfish assists, it’s undoubtedly the latter.

As music goes, "He is just the drummer in the band." Have you tried hearing the band without its drummer?

Heads

Rooney is, without doubt, a valuable player for Manchester United, but will he ever be the key man? Will he ever be the one a team is built around, which is clearly the mark of a world-class player?

Ferguson built a team around Ruud Van Nistelrooy and his magnificent goal-scoring ratio. When he was sold to Real Madrid, Ferguson then built his latest team around Ronaldo. Surely if Rooney is so great, Ferguson would be building a team around him.

Tails

I think the above answer applies a lot to this as well.

Ferguson has undoubtedly built the team around the ROO-Naldo combination. Let’s face it, without these two, Man United plummets to the level of a good, but not a brilliant team.

Rooney is not the absolute overwhelming hinge of the team, but he indeed is one of the most important cogs in the wheel of the team. The team, as you say, is not built around him like Didier Drogba or van Nistelrooy, but try taking him out of the equation, and the chasm is quite palpable.

Heads

It is hard to celebrate a player who has shown such utter disrespect to the team that nurtured him as a boy and gave him his big break on a massive stage.

Rooney signed for Everton on schoolboy terms at 10 and progressed through the ranks, but he was very quick to turn his back on the club to look for the bigger European stage instead of at least attempting to help Everton reach those heights.

He also showed complete lack of respect to David Moyes in his autobiography. He can't seem to return to Goodison Park without kissing the Manchester United badge—surely slapping the face of those that once supported him.

Tails

I think this is where one would, and should, strike a balance between altruism and pragmatism. You work all your life to get somewhere, and you get that unique once in a lifetime opportunity of signing for Manchester United.

I see absolutely nothing wrong in taking that opportunity, and it makes sense from a professional standpoint as well. He is a soccer player, not a philanthropist. I think with the unrestrained way he plays the game, the celebration only indicates his sheer delight in scoring a goal for Man United, and not so much as needing to insult Everton.

We have to agree to disagree on this point.

Heads

His temperament makes him look an absolute idiot occasionally on the pitch. 

He misses an easy chance or doesn't get a foul he felt he should have, and then charges half the pitch to make a horrible challenge on a member of the opposition. This can end up not only causing injury to an opponent, but also costing Manchester United or England valuable points.

He will continue to get sent off and suspended until he cuts this behaviour out. It is not an excuse that he feels he must play this way to be effective—how effective will he be watching from the stands or heading for an early bath?


Tails

Fair is fair; I am going to give you this one, for you are absolutely correct in calling him out.

The red card against Portugal in the World Cup 2007 quarterfinal was horrendous; the slapping players and applauding the referee for a wrong decision (this was funny, actually) were uncalled for.

But Drogba got away with it for screaming obscenities into the television, and Michael Ballack got away with it even if he almost bit the referee’s head off. But here is a universal fact, whether you are England’s lead striker or a New York Times journalist—with age, everyone mellows down.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not defending his behavior, but providing a plausible explanation for such behavior. It’s not an excuse, but a reason that explains the event. I am sure even he realizes when he reacts in such a way and gets sent off, he is not only letting himself down, but also his 10 teammates down.

The latter is much worse than the former. With age, he has mellowed down, and he will continue to mature. Spontaneity and reflex reactions are inversely proportional to age.

Here is the clincher for me. As many limitations he might have, he tilts the balance in the positive direction by his sheer ability to play in a TEAM. I love that about athletes, especially the ones who are significantly talented.

His ability to play and play unselfishly with Ronaldo after what transpired in the WC 2007 was absolutely admirable. Many a career in the world has been sabotaged by team games played by athletes who thought they were above the team (Akhtar, Kobe Bryant, Barry Bonds—the list extends to infinity).

That attitude is a parasite that exterminates the team spirit, ambiance, and above all, the pleasure of winning as a team.

Rooney is so unique in the fact that he always has prioritized Manchester United and England before his own goal counts. Rooney might score less because of that attitude, but as someone who loves the team he plays on, we will not have it any other way. 

 

So there are the pros and cons of Wayne Rooney. 

Flip that coin, folks.

 

Other articles in this series:

The Two Sides of the Nicklas Bendtner Coin

The Two Sides of the Cristiano Ronaldo Coin

The Two Sides of the Arsene Wenger Coin

 

Upcoming article in the series:

The Two Sides of the Roy Keane Coin with Willie Gannon

 

* My sincere thanks to LJS for his contribution to this article.