Tag Archives: wayne rooney

Let The Sunshine In

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What a difference a month makes, eh? It now appears very shortsighted of me to have spent almost the entirety of last month‘s column venting about the team’s penchant for conceding late goals before concluding we were heading towards mid-table. Clearly, this current upsurge in form wasn’t something I was anticipating any time soon… that’s what 3 years of spluttering form under Moyes and Van Gaal can do to a man, I guess. Oh me of little faith…

Instead of the regular kick in the balls, we’ve been treated to a month of football that has been a genuine pleasure to witness. Indeed, watching United has probably not been this much fun since the conclusion of the title winning season of 2012/13. For the first time in god knows how long, I’m looking at league tables and fixture lists again. Going to Old Trafford no longer feels like a chore and I’m actually making eye contact with people who want to talk about the game. Yes folks, this is big!

Realistically, and this isn’t some outlandish reverse-curse attempt, we aren’t going to win the league this season. We’re too far behind and even if Chelsea do implode, there are better placed teams than us to take advantage. The thing is though, it doesn’t even matter. Crucially, it just feels like we’ve got something back that’s been missing for ages. Gary Neville suggested it was arrogance which is taking things a bit far I think, it’s more like we’ve regained a bit of belief… the team and the fans.

The Middlesborough game felt absolutely massive (okay, I know it was only Middlesborough but bear with me) given the manner in which we came back to win in the last 5 minutes. If this team does go on to achieve greatness in future, we’ll look back on that day as something of a turning point. For the first time since Fergie left, falling behind with 15 minutes left provided an incentive to do something about it rather than the sight of heads dropping at the sheer injustice of it all.

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There was no seismic groundswell where the whole stadium stood as one and willed the team forward or anything, such atmospheres just don’t happen at Old Trafford these days, sadly. But the sense of resignation that has greeted such scenarios over the last 3 years wasn’t apparent as the fans got behind the team, the team continued to press… and ultimately got their reward. Belief. It felt like a breakthrough moment, evidence that the penny has finally dropped and they’re evolving into a half-decent side. Where Mourinho and the team are at right now, they (and we) needed something like that to happen.

Anyway, I’m not getting carried away or anything but it’s all quite encouraging… and yes, perhaps the outlook isn’t quite as bleak as what I suggested a month ago. It’s still a work in progress (how many times have we said that over the last 3 years), but for now we look to have a settled team that’s gaining in confidence and improving by the week. Keep progressing in the cups, push on towards the top four and continue playing football that resembles something like the United of old. If we can maintain this current momentum and there’s a few more moments comparable with the Boro turnaround, then that’ll do nicely for the foreseeable.

It’s now looking fairly certain that this month will see the departures of Memphis Depay and Morgan Schneiderlin, two players who have been here 18 months but leave having abjectly failed to have made any kind of impression whatsoever. Harsh on Memphis perhaps, who at least provided some merriment with his gargantuan ego and spectacularly bad dress sense. Schneiderlin on the other hand, doesn’t even possess a personality to take offence at – he’s probably the beigest player to have ever played for Manchester United. The only thing I can recall him doing is looking like a Next Directory model, as I’m struggling to pinpoint a single, standout moment in any of his 47(!) appearances.

It’s hard to credit now that back in the summer of 2015, Memphis Depay was unanimously hailed as one of the brightest talents in Europe. Arriving as a prolific goalscorer from PSV worked well for Ruud, and Memphis came with a similarly impressive showreel and long list of suitors. His signing felt like a real coup at the time but it just never worked out. He didn’t have great pace, lacked a trick and couldn’t cross a ball to save his life. In other words, he was no improvement on either Ashley Young or Adnan Januzaj. Factor in his King of Rotterdam, Big Pimpin’ schtick and it didn’t take long for the realisation to dawn that he was more international class bellend than international class footballer.

Manchester United v Crystal Palace - Premier League

Anyway, it’s no great loss in either case and a move away looks to suit both Depay and Schneiderlin at this juncture. Thankfully, Everton still seem confident in the abilities of both so we should recoup a sizeable chunk of the fees paid for the pair of them. Fingers crossed they’ll go on to be a great success for the season’s remainder and buoyed by this, the scousers will return in the summer and offer us £25M to take Fellaini back too. Y’see? Done and dusted, everyone’s a winner.

Another who may find himself back at Everton in the not too distant future is Wayne Rooney, and hearty congratulations to him on equalling Sir Bobby’s record of 249 career goals for United. It’s been a long time coming for Wayne, as he’s finally reached the milestone about 2 years later than one might have anticipated – a once prolific striker nowadays consigned to a mere supporting role.

Mourinho deserves some credit for how he’s skilfully managed to solve the Rooney conundrum with a degree of sensitivity. Both Moyes and Van Gaal found themselves hamstrung by the fact he was club captain and a seemingly automatic first team choice, playing him despite his awful form and terrified of the implications of taking him out of the firing line. Mourinho meanwhile, played Wayne until dropping him became a no brainer – it was the kindest thing to do.

Rooney must know in himself that his career at OT is drawing to a close, yet I read something this weekend about United having an option to extend his contract by a further year. Do me a favour, as things stand it’ll be a major surprise if he’s still here in August given the fact he’s no longer a confirmed starter. Far from kicking off about it, you get the impression that Rooney is fully aware the end is nigh and is now content to be getting any game time at all. Whatever happens over the coming months, 13 years and all-time leading scorer at the club is an incredible achievement. In this red’s opinion at least, the plaudits being thrust his way currently are richly deserved.

Copyright Red News – January 2017

www.rednews.co.uk

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Yesterday’s Men

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During his time at Chelsea, every Mourinho smirk, quip and raised eyebrow had the English press pack in raptures. In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a very different narrative being played out now he’s Manchester United’s manager. José is the out-of-touch dinosaur and instead it’s Pep, Poch and Jurgen Klopp getting journalists into an engorged state. That’s absolutely fine. The rush to hand out plaudits and prizes after 6 or 7 games is utterly laughable, as City’s recent coronation as ‘the invincibles’ proved quite succinctly.

When I was a kid, I can recall my old man telling me not to even bother looking at the league table until after 10 games or so. At that point, you get a fair indication of what’s what given each team will have played a couple of tough fixtures so you can properly assess form. It’s pretty obvious stuff, really… but football in 2016 doesn’t care for a sense of perspective or reality, it’s all about hyperbole. As Sparky notes elsewhere in this issue, everything either has to be “the best ever” or “the worst ever.”

The truth of course, is that United are somewhere in-between. I closed last month’s optimism-fuelled column with a note of caution regarding the impending Manchester derby – a wise move given how it duly managed to obliterate the early season feel-good factor within the space of 45 minutes. How very sobering. Even more depressingly, the resultant hangover has proven difficult to shift as we head into a very testing autumnal run of fixtures.

The 1st of these, away at Anfield, was negotiated successfully with the deployment of some vintage Mourinho nullifying tactics. As unpalatable as some might find it, the ‘go for a 0-0 and anything else’s a bonus’ mindset was entirely predictable and executed perfectly. 35% possession would have made Van Gaal wince and despite the lack of chances, in this instance the end result justified the means. With Chelsea and City around the corner, the last thing required was another defeat.

Clearly, a United team being sent out with such limited ambition is going to irritate a sizeable number of people. Mourinho’s willingness to exercise such a game plan was cited as a reason some were against him ever being given the job in the first place – his propensity for negativity being a ‘betrayal of our attacking traditions’ and all that.

Personally, I don’t see a problem. If he was setting us up to bore teams into submission every game like we tried to for much of the last 3 seasons, then I’d be complaining as loud as anyone. But he isn’t. It’s not Southampton at home, it’s Liverpool away… and the result is everything. There have been plenty of abject games at Anfield over the last 20 years, where typically we’ve turned in half-hearted performances and been soundly beaten. The last time we went there and properly dominated them was the 3-1 win back in December ’97 – it just doesn’t happen very often. So all things considered I’m quite content with a single point, thank you very much.

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If Mourinho has discovered that his time as the darling of the English press is over, it’s nothing compared to the mensis horribilis that Wayne Rooney has just endured. Despite the fact that the football watching public have long been frustrated by his fading abilities, it’s only in the last 4 weeks that the cabal of media/ex-pros and managers have finally admitted the game’s up too.

It probably took me longer than most to recognise change was needed as I’ve usually sported a pair of blinkers where Wazza’s failings are concerned. I’ve been content to overlook his leaden feet with increasingly redundant arguments about his effort and work rate – a will to win that was still good enough to craft us an FA Cup winning goal from nothing as recently as May, let’s not forget. The reality however, is that the bad has outweighed the good for months, if not years now.

The ongoing debate about his current/future position has always been skewed by the fact that many people can’t admit the most obvious detail – Wayne simply isn’t a top class midfielder. He just doesn’t possess the requisite touch and passing consistency. The notion that a striker can drop back and influence games from a deeper role as the years take their toll is a convenient one, but how many players have truly managed to achieve this? Charlton, Dalglish and Keegan perhaps… though none of these played in the current era with its unrelenting speed and intensity.

The desire is still there with Rooney, his effort and work rate haven’t diminished despite regular claims to the contrary. The problem is simply down to his declining physical state – he’s just not as quick as he was 10 years ago. The brain sees the pass/anticipates the incoming tackle, but the feet are no longer as quick to react. Sadly, it’s probably just a natural consequence of him doing this week in, week out for the last 14 years.

And for 12 of those years, Rooney has been wearing a United shirt – a key performer during the most successful era in the club’s history. 500 games, 250 goals… yet many will be delighted to see the back of him when he inevitably moves on at the end of the season. Not me. Nor am I joining in with those gleefully revelling in his current predicament and enjoying the opportunity to stick the boot in. Despite the fact his career at Old Trafford seems to be heading to a somewhat ignominious conclusion, he deserves far better than that.

Copyright Red News – October 2016

www.rednews.co.uk

Kicking Television

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Whilst debate continues to rumble on amongst United fans about whether Wayne Rooney should be dropped in light of his ongoing lack of form, tv viewers were recently treated to an “unprecedented”, behind-the-scenes profile of the man courtesy of the Beeb in Rooney: The Man Behind the Goals. As far as titles go, I might have plumped for ‘Wayne’s World’, personally.

The programme was commissioned to mark the fact that Rooney has now reached 50 international goals – a landmark haul that Gary Lineker was careful to remind us of at least a dozen times. The footage shown of a teenage Rooney served as a reminder of what an utterly devastating player he was in his youth, completely at odds with the waning Wayne we see toiling away in 2015.

Disappointingly, despite promising much more, there was very little revealed about “the man behind the goals”. Indeed, the most remarkable thing about this documentary was how little about Wayne Rooney we managed to learn over the course of an hour. Instead we were treated to about 20 minutes footage of Wazza playing with his kids, 10 minutes of him driving round Croxteth, 20 minutes of vox-pop plaudits from his fellow pros and 10 minutes of non-insightful musings from the man himself.

Rather than giving us stunning revelations such as “fatherhood has matured him” and “he’s a great captain”, I couldn’t help feeling the whole thing was a giant missed opportunity. It would have been so much more illuminating if instead, Lineker had gone off-piste and started rummaging round his house ‘Come Dine With Me’-style. Rather than simply teasing us with mentions of Wayne’s love of live music and flair for writing poetry, it would have proved far more entertaining if they’d cracked open a couple of bottles of wine and got the karaoke machine out whilst Lineker went delving into Colleen’s knicker drawer in search of said poems. Maybe next time.

It’s been a been a while since there’s been a reverential documentary detailing the life and times of Sir Alex Ferguson, so hot on the heels of exposing what makes Wayne Rooney tick, BBC1 followed up this up with Sir Alex Ferguson: Secrets of Success. This programme decided to forgo the already done-to-death biography format and instead went with the premise of Fergie’s new-found status as one of the world’s foremost thinkers in the field of management in business.

Fergie Harvard

Post-retirement, Fergie has managed to swerve the £500 a night after-dinner speaking circuit so beloved of ex-pros. Instead, he finds himself invited to speak at educational institutions alongside Harvard professors. The format seems to be that the academics start the ball rolling by presenting their theories in lecture theatres full of graduate trainees, before Fergie takes to the mic and dismisses all conventional wisdom with his inimitable brand of icumfigovaness.

It’s an incredible (and no doubt very lucrative) gig that Fergie has got for himself, and it doesn’t seem to matter a jot that his pearls of wisdom are simply common sense methods familiar to any manager in any workplace the world over. Nevertheless, the sway that Fergie has in these circles shows no sign of abating any time soon. Everyone sits there totally enrapt in the presence of such a legendary figure, collectively ignoring the fact that his experiences in charge of a football club aren’t in any way related to their own career aspirations of managing a team of 30 stockbrokers.

Out of all the usual faces lined up to pay homage to Ferguson and his greatness, only Tony Blair had the balls to admit that Fergie’s “just get rid of them” mantra doesn’t actually translate to a normal (not that 10 Downing Street can be considered normal) workplace. How utterly bizarre though, that the former Prime Minister actually sought out the opinions of a footballer manager whilst agonising over a proposed cabinet restructuring.

One of the comedic highlights of 2014 was BBC3’s Football Fight Club, a ‘hard-hitting’ documentary exploring “some of the most active youth firms in the country.” As far as hoolie porn goes, last year’s effort was stone cold classic. We met Dante from Spurs, attempting to kick his habit by fighting trees in a forest pretending they were Chelsea; there was a chubby lad from Bury retiring from active service at 18 to become a sensitive singer-songwriter; and of course there was Carl, leader of City’s ‘infamous’ Blazing Squad, memorably driving round Stockport with his 16 year old accomplices trying to arrange a “4 on 4” with West Ham.

Blazing squad

The producers of Football Fight Club don’t try to innovate, they instead stick rigidly with the tried and tested ‘Danny Dyer format’ that’s become the standard for the hoolimentary genre. There are numerous shots of dogs roaming bleak-looking council estates, gangs of kids stood on street corners with their hoods pulled up and a voiceover from a sociology and media studies graduate, explaining in hushed tones about ‘meets’ and ‘top boys’ and ‘banning orders’.

As well as catching up with Carl and Dante, this year’s follow up film introduced some new aspiring Cass Pennants. First we met with Brogan (17) from Lanarkshire, unique due to being a girl and for having seen Nick Love’s adaptation of ‘The Firm’ and taken it seriously. Unusually for a teenage wannabe hoolie, Brogan eschewed the pub as part of her pre-match routine. Instead she met up with her Hamilton Academical’s youth firm cohorts (ages ranging from 9-16) on a piece of waste ground, where they jumped up and down singing songs in their impenetrable accent sharing a small bottle of Buckfast. I’m not making any of this up by the way.

Then we met Denny from Wolverhampton, invited by Dante to travel down to London to ‘mob up’ with Spurs in order to fulfil his long-held ambition of taking on a “top continental firm”. Unfortunately, the game selected was Fiorentina at home, where clearly, nothing was ever likely to happen. By way of consolation, Denny travelled back home on the last train out of Euston gazing wistfully at footage of Feyenoord getting a kicking off the Italian plod the same night. What a pity the programme’s meagre budget didn’t extend to buying the lad a passport and sending him and the film crew out to Rome instead.

Blazing Squad Carl, meanwhile, was still holed up in his Bury flat bemoaning his misfortune of being off the scene due to serving a football banning order. Not really a surprising development when you consider he went on national television last year incriminating himself for an hour. Still, the end was in sight and Carl’s ban was soon due to expire – his preparations for which, we discovered, comprised of getting a new tattoo and buying an Ellesse tracksuit top. Apparently, he was also “looking forward to Derby Day”. Gulp. Be careful out there, reds.

Copyright Red News – October 2015

www.rednews.co.uk