What is a man to do? So many books to shill, so little time to do it. Good job, then, that an injured Wayne Rooney can dedicate time not to getting fit – by his own admission that’s never been a strength – but to selling his new tome, My Decade in the Premier League. And how better to achieve that goal than to feign a long-held love for his employers, or offer platitudes of regret for trying to engineer a move away? After all, there are Manchester United
supporters customers followers who still buy into the man and myth; perhaps even the book. Priced at £12.99 from anything but a good book store.
Still, with Rooney celebrating a decade at the top there is no better arbitrary anniversary on which to tell the player’s ‘story’ once again. Not least, with United fans in mind, the tedious lie about the player’s commitment to the club – nearly two years on from October-gate when player and agent conspired to join Manchester City.
So, it was to the media that Rooney turned this week, and the player’s latest in a rather long line of ‘autobiographical’ titles released by Harper Collins. No surprise either that amid the tedium of trite clichés, and heinously bastardised tense, Rooney once again visits his October 2010 request to leave United.
Except Rooney’s book reduces the episode, which brought scorn from the terraces and a masterful press conference performance from Sir Alex Ferguson, to a mere three paragraphs of deliberately misleading prose.
“In September 2010 my ankle puts me on the sidelines,” says Rooney, in that odd use of the present tense in recalling the past that only appears in sports biographies.
“I get frustrated with myself, my game, my injury, and everything around me. I’m stuck in a cycle of bad form but I can’t get out of it. And that’s when I make the biggest mistake of my football career.
“In October, I release a statement which publicly questions my happiness at Old Trafford. Am I better off elsewhere? Everyone makes a fuss. There are discussions inside United to sort out the issue, people outside United chuck their opinions around, but the thing is, nobody really knows what’s going on in my life. None of them understand where I am in my career. They don’t know where my head’s at. The only person who really knows what’s going on in there is me, but even I’m not sure what I want.”
“Then the manager has his say. ‘Sometimes you look in a field and you see a cow and you think it’s a better cow than the one you have in your own field. And it never really works that way’. He’s saying the grass isn’t always greener, and he’s right. I like what’s in my field. I’m wrong. United want the same as me: trophies, success, to be the best.”
Except, of course, Rooney’s field was considerably greener for being fertilised by the new £200,000-per-week contract that precipitated the player’s about-face, and City’s transfer disappointment.
None of this is new of course. Rooney has now often spoken of his “mistake” in requesting a transfer during a four day stand-off, although in the pantheon of negotiating tactics, the Scouser’s principal public relations failure was in taking the issue to the media.
Still, two years on and Rooney spent the past week publicising his wares, appearing in print and broadcast press, while the Mirror serialised the player’s book. The striker is seemingly unaware of the damage caused to his United legacy – a player who never be more than another expensive import for whom United is a business and not a passion. Fans, save perhaps for the ‘follower’ community, have come to expect little else from the Premier League product.
Yet, it still grates when Rooney feigns contrition, or worse still, fatuously compares himself to those who have genuinely forgone greater wealth elsewhere to play for the club.
“Sometimes as a player you make bad choices and bad decisions, and I think that’s what happened,” Rooney told Sky Sports this week.
“I want to still be playing here in the next 10 years. You look at Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, how successful they have been. They are an example to us all. That is the idea, that is the plan, and hopefully that will be the case.
“I love playing for Manchester United and as long as I am wanted to play for this football club I will be here for a long time. It is a great football club and, let’s be honest, where else can you go from this football club? It is probably the biggest team in the world.”
Eight years on from the £27 million transfer that brought the player from Goodison Park to Manchester Rooney’s place at the club is less secure than it was during October-gate. Predictable rumours of a transfer away from Old Trafford spread when Sir Alex dropped the player for United’s home game against Fulham.
And although a departure this summer was never on the cards, there will be little surprise if United eventually cash in on a player whose star has probably peaked.
Indeed, Robin van Persie’s arrival at United, together with a genuine ‘number 10’ in Shinji Kagawa, has placed Rooney under more pressure to earn his spot in Ferguson’s team than ever before. Moreover, with the Scouser out of the side injured for at least another fortnight, it may be mid October before the player is at his sharpest. After all, Rooney is notoriously slow to develop fitness after frequent spells on the sidelines.
And it has been telling that Rooney’s media circus has been greeted not with affection this week, but a certain sense of cynicism from fans, especially those growing weary of inconsistent performances, and proclamations of affection.
Better for the player to declare his love of filthy lucre than United’s red shirt. After all, another day, another dollar has been the mantra this week. Just one more product to flog.