Friday, October 15, 2010

Thinking the Unthinkable

After a mediocre World Cup and poor start to the season, followed by his recent disagreement with his Manager's assessment of his injury status, questions have been raised this week about Wayne Rooney's future at Manchester United. Fair enough too, given – despite management's insistence that they are not a “selling” club – their recent sale of Cristiano Ronaldo and, to a lesser extent Gerard Pique without adequate replacements.

Sir Alex Ferguson is dedicated to ensuring no player becomes bigger than the club – look what happened when Stam, Beckham, McGrath, Ince, Keane and recently Tevez and Ronaldo became too much of a distraction – to the point that it looks like he's protecting his own status as the biggest name at the Theatre of Dreams. Going back to the start of his reign, Ferguson has always rid himself of players he thought of as team cancers whether he was proved correct in his assumptions or not. Should this be true or just me philosophising is inconsequential. Rooney's form this term has warranted his dropping below Berbatov in the pecking order and it's plainly obvious that Rooney is unsettled and not performing.

Which is why the rumours that he could be off to Real Madrid have legs. Just examine the facts: an unsettled player, Real needing another Galactico to sign this offseason and Rooney the biggest name outside Spain, Rooney approaching the last year of his contract, SAF's tendency to shun the unsettled, not-quite-limitless reserves of Los Merengues cash and Madrid having a Galactico from every major footballing country except the enormous English market. Rooney's without question the best English player – indeed there's a convincing argument that he's the best English player since their World Cup victory in 1966 – and so the thought is he'd fit right in.

Perhaps it is time for SAF to sell? The frailty in the current squad combined with the Red Devil's terminal shortness of cash and the relative weakness of the Premier League (could you really see a Rooney-less United missing the Champions League spots? It's a stretch) means that a sizeable fee or cash-plus-player deal probably has more appeal now than at any time since their relegation in 1974. As a fan, I don't want him to leave United and I know selling sounds like blasphemy – I love his work ethic, intensity, ability and heart – but if the club were able to recoup, say, Karim Benzema, Mesut Oezil and 20 million Euros then the proposition becomes less galling and more tempting. Outside him directly agitating for a move which goes against the man's personality, I think it's unlikely that Roo will leave: he doesn't seem the sort to want to live a continental lifestyle, does he? But rather than just slapping an “Unsellable” sticker across his forehead it may be in everyone's best interests to see what the Madrid are prepared to offer.

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