The Emperor stood out before the parade that he had gathered so that he could reveal his newest set of clothes to his subjects. He had been advised that only those who were elevated enough would see his clothes. So you have to wonder if he thought his subjects were elevated, was he fit to lead them. Everybody bows before him and afraid of contradicting him, everyone agrees that his set of clothes are of very fine quality. However a tiny boy yells, “But the emperor has no clothes!”
In this scenario, the rest of the world is the little boy and Wayne Rooney is the emperor. Everyone sees it but him. Squawka’s reference to him as a headless chicken was the best thing conjured up in the last 24 hours. Rooney’s inclusion against Arsenal was his 750th appearance for club and country and you could tell all those appearances have had a bearing on his legs. Lumbering forward nimbly and strutting about awkwardly.
His supporters will point to his 252 PL goals setting him up as the all-time United top-scorer in tandem with 5 Premier League titles, 1 Champions League, 1 FA cup and 3 League Cups. He has 21 appearances this season and has seven goals and 10 assists in all competitions. However my good friend recently alluded to the fact that statistics don’t tell the whole story and not to be selective but that does apply to Wayne.
However if you want to go the statistics way, against Arsenal yesterday he attempted 6 tackles and didn’t win a single one, he had 7 failed crosses, 4 shots off target, 1 chance created and 0 take-ons. This makes for a pained reading especially because the man in focus is Wayne.
The problem is this is not even an isolated incident. Time and time again, Wayne Rooney has been accorded time and space on the team and he has left his team and particularly his manager red-faced at his decision to field him. A significant point of the game was in the closing stages of the first half when Rob Holding squared a slow ball to Cech and Rooney raced on to intercept it. The game and Petr Cech were at his feet but Wayne being Wayne, he simply bumped the ball against the keeper. Mourinho turned away towards the bench and shook his fist, utterly disgusted. That was the perfect symbolism of every united fan’s feelings and frustrations. Perhaps the finish wasn’t as simple as it looked but this was Rooney! 5 years ago you could have bet your house on him burying that one. Scoring seemed like his inherent ability, it was never supposed to sink to these levels. The fact that our linchpin has been a 35 year old and Ronaldo being about six months older than Rooney recently scored European goal number 103 makes Rooney’s fading the more spectacular.
In 2013, Sir Alex alluded to the fact that Rooney had a problem with his fitness and lifestyle. Rooney has become a sort of ogre, round-shaped and short. Struggles to close down on teams that play from the back and is simply exhausting to watch. He has simply lost his tactical discipline. Against Arsenal, he kept dropping deeper and deeper whenever the midfielders had the ball instead of going the other way so there was no attacking outlet. Everyone could see the exasperated expression on Carrick’s face when he had the ball and Rooney causally strolled past him going into his own half. You’re the number ten, freaking open up and give a passing opportunity.
If there’s one thing that United has learnt during the past seasons is that holding onto sentiments can hurt you. He has always been warmly appreciated at Old Trafford with ovations and chants whenever he’s warming up or coming on. However, given the chance to pick the team, how many would actually place him in their starting line-ups? Heck he would barely make my 18 man squad!
The Sun in yesterday’s article called him the ‘ex-England captain’. Whether this was a tongue in cheek swipe or a genuine overlook remains to be seen but such is his position in the national team. His omission has brought barely a whimper from anyone. Southgate claimed Rooney is still his captain and the national doors are still open if he improves his performances this season. However basing on this, that door is steadily being shut and the light at the end of the tunnel is slowly fading.
He has got what he wanted in being United’s top scorer. It’s time to go Wayne. For both our sake. Stop embarrassing yourself and tainting that proud image that you have.
You either leave a hero or stay long enough to become a Steven Gerrard villain.