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Deflected Free-Kick: Football Blogjams

Wayne Rooney: The Real Life Jack Bauer?

Twenty-four hours ago, facing the realisation that I would never again adorn myself in my beloved Wayne Rooney Man Utd shirt, I was all set to write a scolding article on my revulsion for Rooney and his inflated sense of greatness. I had even alliterated my provisional title with “Wayne the Wanker”. Well, thank god I decided to sack it off till morning. Now I am saved the embarrassment of a dramatic u-turn since, with the news of him signing a new 5 year deal, I have to learn to love him again. But I haven’t put my Rooney shirt back on just yet. It’s in the wash.

Of course, regaining the United fans’ faith will be more difficult than saying “180 grand, thank you very much.” There has been real anger and hatred felt towards him this week. I know, I felt it. And it was an anger welling from deeper roots than shown by the fans demonstrating outside his house with ridiculous Eric Cantona masks on.

I won’t get too into this because it has been well documented in the press this week. Everyone has an opinion. Mine last night was in loyalty to Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson, two enduring icons in my life since, quite literally, as far back as I can remember. I keenly felt the insult to the club, the players and our manager caused by Rooney’s apparent lack of respect. Whatever the impact to the team, his ejection from it appeared both prudent and necessary.

Rooney’s timing hasn’t helped him. The way he’s been moping around the pitch the past 6 months I would say he’s been damn lucky to be considered for United’s or England’s starting 11 at all. Therefore, to claim that Manchester United could no longer measure up to his high standards came across as ill-judged at this point, and months before the transfer window re-opens.

But, underlying the United fans’ resentment towards Rooney is the unsettling recognition that he actually has a point; that his timing isn’t quite so off after all. His worries about the future strength of the club essentially just verbalised the niggling fears that have come creeping into focus from the back of our minds ever since the Glazers arrived. Will these debt-ridden Americans give United the money needed to strengthen and attract the world’s best players? So far there has been scant evidence of this, even after Ronaldo’s expensive departure last summer.

It might even be argued that, by adopting the stance he has, Rooney has aligned himself with the concerns of United fans. After all, he is anxious about Man Utd’s future success. It appears he just doesn’t want to hang around if things do indeed turn sour. What he really wanted was assurances… oh, and 180 grand. A week.

The really fascinating aspect of this whole drama, now that Wayne has happily signed himself up, is what motivated the u-turn? This is such uncertain ground that many conflicting viewpoints are likely to spew forth. It is just as easy to tarnish Rooney as a spoilt, money-hungry egotist as it is to paint him as an impetuous, but earnestly ambitious young man desperate to make the most of his talents.

These two diverse possibilities, however, only make up Interpretation no.1: That, whatever the reasons for the u-turn, it was as sudden and genuine as it came across. Rooney really was intent on leaving United (for more money, for more success, whatever) and it took lots of money and/or assurances of future squad strengthening to turn him around.

Interpretation no.2 is that the turnaround was planned all along. Rooney, or perhaps more likely his agent, performed an outrageous stunt to secure Rooney the lucrative contract he so craved. If it provoked the wrath of the fans it at least provoked the Glazers to cough up some money at last.

Interpretation no.3 is more outrageous still, but hear me out. Perhaps (and it’s a big perhaps) both Ferguson AND Rooney were in on the ruse. Both recognised the steady disappearance of trophy-winning quality in the United team in recent years and concocted like a couple of cackling witches an ingenious plot to glean the necessary resources from the stingy Glazer’s grubby mitts. There will doubtless be many conspiracy theorists way ahead of me on this one.

I like Interpretation no.3. It allows me to go on putting my faith in these two heroes of the current Man Utd era, without any pesky doubts about loyalty or greed getting in the way. If true, and hey you never know, it was a scheme as ludicrous and elaborate as any in the notoriously overblown but goddamn addictive TV drama 24.

In fact, when you think along these lines, Rooney has much in common with Kiefer Sutherland’s much maligned hero Jack Bauer. Rooney, like Bauer, has risked suspicion and vilification in the eyes of those who love and respect him, in order to protect Man Utd from the tight-fisted might of the Glazer terrorists. As the only player capable and talented enough to manipulate the Glazers into promising future investment in the team, Rooney has set himself up for public scorn to save Manchester United from the downward spiral they have found themselves in. Deployed by Ferguson – who for the purposes of this overwrought metaphor will function as the President of the United States – Rooney is, against all odds, the hero of this saga. Anti-terrorism is a team effort but it takes a single hero of Wayne Rooney’s or Jack Bauer’s stature to win the day… or week in Rooney’s case. No amount of Tony Almeidas or Darren Fletchers could prevent potential disaster of this scale.

A dangerous game but, if true, one that seems to have worked, for the time being anyway. We can only wait and see if the assurances of future strength and success made by the club behind closed doors  will receive the ongoing support of the Glazers that is needed to achieve it. I don’t want to think about the implications for the state of football in the 21st century, however, if these are the necessary lengths for looking after the best interests of the team.

I could be wrong of course. I could just be a delusional Man Utd fan, clinging to any explanation, however convoluted and irrational, that restores faith in the heroes of my favourite TV drama of them all.

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