In many ways being a Manchester United fan is the same as being a teenage girl trying to keep up with the latest trends, worrying about being ostracised by your classmates if you make a fashion faux pas or admitting to liking the wrong member of the Vamps, like Connor, or even Tristan you complete weirdo- everyone knows Brad is the best. He’s mint.
There are several dos and don’ts when it comes to being a ‘top Red’ which can change quicker than a Paul Pogba hairdo. ‘Dos include liking any band that comes from Manchester, except of course Oasis, because they support City so if you like them you’re obviously a closeted City fan, ‘don’ts’ include wearing official merchandise and caring about England, the football team rather than the country, although if you do care about the country then you’re probably a massive racist.
One of the most important ‘don’ts’ for any aspiring United fan, is no matter what, don’t ever show any form of admiration for our skipper, otherwise you’re likely to find incur the wrath of the incredulous Red hordes of social media who will troll you at every opportunity before confronting you outside Old Trafford with pitchforks and baseball bats. Possibly.
Liking Wayne Rooney is ranked somewhere between being a paedophile and marrying Steven Gerrard in the eyes of many United fans, as the former Evertonian’s annual transfer request has caused his stock to plummet with the much of the Old Trafford faithful.
There are still many of us who admire Rooney, who appreciate the goals, the trophies and the triumphs the United skipper has helped deliver, after all we are talking about a player who’s won practically every single honour going and is just one goal shy of equalling Sir Bobby Charlton’s record to make him the club’s top scorer. In many ways no matter how many times he’s toyed with the idea of leaving Rooney should be revered by every United fan on the planet, there should be several active campaigns to build a statue outside the ground in his honour and half of Manchester’s children under the age of 12 should have ‘Wayne’ as at the very least a middle name- just as I have, even if it is one of the more chavvy names around – sorry mum - and Mr and Mrs Rooney of course.
Yet for many Reds the mention of Rooney’s name brings anger not admiration, it brings deflation rather than adulation, his goals, while celebrated never quite incite the same amount of joy as those by his teammates, the respect for the skipper is grudging and one of obligation rather than instinct, it’s a crying shame that Rooney’s achievements on the pitch are overshadowed by his decisions off it in the eyes of some.
On occasions, it’s a personal dislike of Rooney which has clouded the judgement of some fans when it comes to his worth to the team and whether he should or shouldn’t be in the side, there’s no doubt he’s not performed at the levels he’s capable of for some time now, I’ve even written as much myself, but he’s not been the disaster it’s claimed despite his failings and the debate over his inclusion has at times reached ridiculous levels with the entire post-Ferguson funk the team found itself in being laid at the skipper’s door.
Thankfully Jose Mourinho has ended the Rooney debate by signing world class players and finding a system whereby the skipper is only used sporadically and often finds himself on the bench for some of the bigger games, a tactic he is seemingly happy to accept, the only question remaining now is how long will United’s number ten remain on the fringes of the squad before he decides it’s not the way he wants to spend the autumn of his career?
There’s been suggestions that Rooney could move away from Old Trafford this Summer, some papers have even claimed it could be as soon as January but that seems more like click-bait drivel than any accurate reporting, a move to the US or perhaps even China has been mooted, as that’s where the megabucks are and the standard of football is such that the England skipper could shine brightly in either league.
With three young children and business interests for both himself and Coleen here in the UK, it’s not a given Rooney would want to move abroad, despite the obvious rewards that are on offer, there’s also the fact if we’re going to be completely honest, the United striker seems like the kind of bloke who’d sit watching Only Fools and Horses, while eating egg and chips in the Red Lion and complaining about the heat while on holiday in Benidorm, rather than someone who’d embrace a move halfway across the globe. There’s even been the suggestion that Rooney could return to his boyhood club Everton for his final playing days, although whether the Toffees would be willing and able to match his wage expectations is doubtful at best.
Regardless of whether Rooney leaves in the Summer or not, this season he has the perfect opportunity to play a big part in getting United back to where they belong, challenging at the very top of the league, winning trophies and qualifying for Europe’s top competition. Much like Bryan Robson did in his last two seasons at the club, Rooney could be the ‘club captain’ the team needs, someone who can still play his part but features more in the cup competitions and against some of the league’s so-called ‘lesser’ sides, someone who can act as a conduit between the manager and the players and an example to some of his younger teammates.
For all his faults Rooney has shown signs of maturity these past few months, he’s been praised by the manager for the way he’s been willing to play a less frequent role, while the likes of Jesse Lingard have commented how he’s helped the younger players, the United captain is also taking his coaching badges with a view to management one day, admittedly that may sound about as far-fetched as Phil Jones taking a political science degree with a view to becoming Prime Minister, but if nothing else Rooney has been around football his entire life and been hugely successful. He may not seem like management material but there was a time when Rooney didn’t seem like captain material either.
Rooney may not ever get the love he feels he deserves from some United fans, even when he inevitably breaks Sir Bobby’s record, he may find himself moved around the pitch more times than John O’Shea against Spurs and he may no longer be good enough for the starting eleven but as the end of his United career gets ever closer, there’s a chance for the skipper to win over at least some of the naysayers, help pick up the one trophy that’s eluded him and make it acceptable for many of us to look back on his United career with fondness and admiration without being labelled a Judas.
Wazza, it’s over to you…