Fergiewatch # 3: Götterdamerung

Is anyone else as bored with the Wayne Rooney saga as I am?

Player Power vs Corporate Clout, Fergie v Rooney, claim and counter-claim; it’s all so predictable and tedious.

Even so, there a few little vignettes that are worth dwelling on….

Fergie’s Press Conference and Rooney’s Riposte

Fergie drew a lot of positive press from his performance at Tuesday’s news briefing ahead of the Bursaspor game.  ‘Statesmanlike’ and ‘vulnerable’ were just 2 of the adjectives unexpectedly wheeled out.  Even more interesting was yesterday’s cunningly-timed riposte from Rooney, in which he cited the club’s lack of ambition as a major factor in his opting not to extend his contract.  Some United fans might disagree, but I think we might have cause to be grateful to Rooney for raising this topic.  Personally, I have been furious that the club has not strengthened where they most need it – in central midfield.  Fergie, obviously hamstrung by the Glazers decision to impose severe restrictions on his transfer budget, has nonetheless dutifully continued to parrot the Party Line to the effect that there’s no value in the market – a market which saw Rafael van der Vaart move to Spurs for £500,000 more than Fergie splashed out on a player he had never seen and who has never been seen since his one brief substitute appearance in the first team – Bebé.

Once a way forward is decided upon – as soon as tomorrow, according to Fergie – Rooney will undoubtedly be transfer-listed and is unlikely to ever play for United again.  The club will then no doubt close ranks and suggest that Rooney has been poorly advised and is motivated entirely by greed.  I sincerely hope that United fans are wise enough not to swallow that.  Rooney may be greedy, but he is also ambitious to win more trophies and what he has been told about United’s recruitment strategy for the future has made him think twice about tieing himself to the club he once aspired to represent for the rest of his career as recently as April 2009. 

Pointless, also,  to talk about loyalty because it rarely exists at top clubs these days.  Clubs are quick enough to dump players who don’t make the grade and United have dumped quite a few through the years. The point is that you can hardly blame Rooney for wanting to push on and win more trophies, particularly as he feels that he’s unlikely to do so at United.  Footballers have short careers and  probably feel that they don’t have the time to hang around waiting for the next open-topped bus to come along.  The question that we should be asking is what has happened between April 2009 and today to turn Rooney from a  would-be United ‘lifer’ into an alleged  spoilt-brat, greedy, wantaway scumbag. Of course, he’s a badge-kisser and a bit of an  omadhaun, but until now, he’s been our omadhaun.  Then again, I’m sure Everton fans once thought the same thing.

The Elephant in the Room here is of course the way in which the Glazer family’s tenure is dragging United down.  For all the bland denials from apparatchiks like Gill, and indeed from Fergie himself, it is clear that the £80 million from the sale of Ronaldo was never available to reinvest in players because it had already been gobbled up by the Glazers to meet their insane schedule of loan repayments.  Everybody – including Wayne Rooney –  knows this, so why don’t they just come clean?  It’s a pity that Fergie’s frankness about the Rooney affair wasn’t mirrored by an equal degree of candour about the parlous state of the club’s finances.

A glimpse of the future?

United beat Bursaspor 1-0 in last night’s Champions League game, apparently in front of 72,000 people, though it looked a lot less to me .  This was a team without Rooney, without Giggs and without Scholes.  So, could this be the future?  If so, United fans had better prepare themselves for a long stretch in the footballing wilderness.  Against a team our Reserves would have fancied taking on, United struggled to maintain any tempo to their game and  showed a profound lack of imagination going forward.  Honourable exceptions to this criticism would be Nani and Patrice Evra, who at least tried to make something happen.   Also Gabriel Obertan offered some welcome pace and drive in a short cameo.  Other than that, the midfield was woeful and the attack non-existent.  The  only saving grace was that Bursaspor were even more inept, which meant that our creaky defence was never put under any real pressure.  The way things are going, this could be our last Champions League season for a while, so we’d better enjoy it.

Götterdamerung

Now that the pantomime season on Merseyside would seem to be temporarily over, the media will  no doubt go into a feeding frenzy of speculation about where Rooney’s going and for how much (in fact, they’re already off & running with that one) but the real concern now for United fans is how all of this will impact on Alex Ferguson. 

It’s been my feeling for a while now that this could be Fergie’s final season and I suspect the Rooney Saga and its attendant fallout will probably only harden his resolve to quit at the end of the season.  Sad to say, but with Rooney’s departure goes our last realistic chance of silverware this season.  Last year his goalscoring  spree compensated for the departure of (in particular) Ronaldo and (to a lesser extent) Tevez, but that clearly won’t be repeated.  Fergie will know better than anyone else that whilst there is a highly-talented crop of young players just moving up the totem pole from the U-18’s into the reserves (Keane, Cleverley, Pogba, Thorp, Morrison, King) these youngsters are 2-3 years off being ready to play regularly for the first team.  Fergie was trying to build a team to win the European Cup one last time and he was building it around Wayne Rooney.

With that out the window and clearly wounded by what he undoubtedly perceives as a lack of loyalty on Rooney’s part, the last of the managerial dinosaurs may feel that enough is enough.  Given his socialist roots in Govan, I have no doubt that having to mouth the platitudes forced on him by the Glazers regime has been sticking in his craw for a while now and this whole Rooney business may be the last straw.  They made a lovely couple; the  wily ‘old school’ manager with a paternal arm round the shoulder of a traditional English talent.  Rooney wasn’t some fly-by-night foreigner who’d be back off to the sun and the señoritas faster than you could say ’25 pieces of silver’.  Rooney was the best English player of his generation and with him banging in goals from all angles, that elusive third European Cup might just have been attainable.  Now?  It has to be seen as very unlikely.  Some great youngsters are on their way through, it seems, but is Fergie prepared to wait another three years for them to mature?  I very much doubt it.  Giggs, Scholes and Neville plus Van der Sar will all probably retire at the end of the season and I have a feeling that Fergie will be joining them.

Update from 22/10/10

As everyone now knows, Rooney has done an about-turn and signed a 5-year contract that will take him through until he’s 30.  Can’t work out whether this is a good thing or not – certainly it won’t be if he plays like he has since he got injured back in April.

Anyway, time for the next conspiracy theory, which goes like this……..Rooney will still leave United, probably in the summer.  However, having signed this new contract, United will – in principle – be able to get the full market value for him when he does leave, rather than the paltry sums they would have been offered had he left with just a year of his contract remaining.  Let’s  see how this one plays out…..

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