Archives For Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney: A tribute

October 10, 2016

wayne-rooney-manchester-united-man-utd_3480451The bugles are blowing louder than ever on Wayne Rooney’s United career. It’s time, and he probably knows it more than anyone. It won’t be a surprise if during January’s transfer window he left for the U.S. or China. The fact that tomorrow he’ll be on the bench for England against Slovenia in the World Cup qualifying game is as plain a signal as you can get.  He’s a sub at international and club level. He can still summon a surge, ask the Crystal Palace fans after his guts and determination run set up the equalizer in the Cup Final. But these days those runs are a cameo. The game has taken it’s toll. Midfield is not his natural position, it never will be. He looks for Hollywood passes when much of the the game is played in 3-5 yard areas. And in those areas the ball too often slips away. The darting Iniesta role doesn’t suit him.

Now it’s time for the fans to pay him the respect he deserves. Twelve seasons of unforgettable moments, success, courage and skill at United. All the time  while being kicked and battered for the cause and playing in the hardest role of all.

Statistics tell his story and reflect his contribution.

You cannot argue with, diminish or demean those statistics and what they represent. It’s insulting when some fans do. Plain and simple he’s run out of gas. In many other Premiere League teams he’d still be a major force, but United are striving to win the Championship again and there are bigger, quicker, more dynamic, more mobile options available. The body eventually wears out, and Rooney’s has. It happens to every player.

Where does he sit in United’s list of greats? Post war in no particular order we’ve had Edwards, Byrne, Best, Law, Charlton, Robson, Schmeichel, Keane, Cantona, Irwin, Stam, Ferdinand, Vidic, Beckham, Giggs, Scholes, and Ronaldo. Rooney is in that list. Has to be. At his peak he was a devastating force and easily Britain’s best player.

As noted above he’s scored 246 goals for the club. Three behind Bobby Charlton’s club record of 249. Will he break it? I hope so. United can’t afford to try and carry him to the record, but there are plenty of Cup games coming up.

It’s a milestone and personal triumph he deserves. At the highest level his brilliant, bruising career is over.

For a moment forget the Louis Van Gaal Louis Van Gone drama and his current war with the Press. Watching the FA Cup win at Derby once again underlined something wonderful and worth celebrating. The hard core, real Man United supporters. The people who travel to support.  Look at them:

No wonder the United players joined in at Liverpool.

Louis understands the bond and the responsibility the fans. It’s why he always signs autographs and why he’s never afraid to acknowledge they deserve to boo, or come up with signs like this.


At Derby the players listened. There’s no doubt they are playing for Van Gaal. We know the mix isn’t right, even though Rooney is returning to form and Martial delivered another performance illustrating why he’s going to be a superstar. But Van Gaal is correct when he says that mix can only be improved by the “process”. Meaning shrewd acquisitions, a commitment to youth, and forgetting the screaming headlines of doom and disaster.

The Manchester Evening News has four reporters covering United. The paper and those reporters obviously don’t have a relationship with the club anymore. It has succumbed to today’s demands. If United are big business how big is the media? The MEN and all the other outlets chase each other and the internet traffic that drives the simple equation: Eyeballs = ads, = revenue.

Then there’s us. The bloggers, the Twitterati, The Facebook pagers, and the commenters. Everybody has a megaphone. Look at a past few headlines on the United Rant.

Five Ways Louis Van Gaal can save his job

Louis Van Going: The replacements

Tactical Rant: Three issues behind United’s impotent attack

Full disclosure every time I link to the United Rant my traffic on this blog goes up. Some of you visit here after seeing a snippet there.

I can understand why Louis gets exasperated and hits back at the media. Who wouldn’t? Yes he earns a fortune and is answerable to the supporters. That’s a given. But with all of his experience you would think he would know better? As a friend texted this week:

Better to be like hound dog Pellegrini…who sends them to sleep and when they wake up they realize he’s said sod all.


The Press and us are lucky with Louis. He’s good value. He tells it like it is, even if he walks out.

Now for Stoke and Mark Hughes’ return. A big test for Borthwick-Jackson and possibly Varela. Stoke are physical, and in Artonauvic and Walters have forwards who can bully defenders. But Stoke were beaten today at Palace, and had a hard game Tuesday losing to Liverpool in the League Cup on penalties in extra time. Shawcross is out and United couldn’t be getting them at a better time.

Meanwhile no news on the transfer front. For me whether a player or players  are signed by Tuesday goes down to the wire. It’s not a question of need but availability.


louis-van-gaalWhere do we start? Worst performance of the season?  The boos? Champions League receding? Injuries?  Or the alleged Mourinho begging for a job letter?

Let’s begin with the squad and the lack of depth and quality players. Even with all the injuries there should be better players available.

Eleven new players have arrived in Van Gaal’s era. Everyone keeps talking about the enormity of the estimated 250 million pound spend, but keep in mind how much Chelsea, Barcelona, Real, Bayern and City also spent in the past few years. What matters is is how the money is used, and that maybe Van Gaal’s undoing.

As my friend John says:

In the end LVG, like all managers is judged on two things. Results obviously, but also signs that a team is improving. I think it is the second which will ultimately condemn him, since the eleven signings made on his watch have not improved the team.
He’s been unlucky with Shaw. Of the rest,  Blind is good value and arguably the best buy, Martial is a talent; Schweinsteiger provides leadership; Schneiderlin is solid; Depay is dreadful; Rojo injury prone; Herrera flatters to deceive; the jury is out on Darmian; Romero is a bench warmer; and Falcao and Di Maria were complete failures.
How many of the current team would get into the current Arsenal, City, Tottenham or Leicester starting line ups? De Gea and Smalling definitely. Rooney and Schneiderlin probably.
Yesterday United were beaten by a goal from a 4 million pound centre forward, yet Martial and Depay collectively cost around 60 million pounds. In a collective team performance lacking every traditional club value United ended the match with four teenagers on the pitch, Januzaj preferred before Depay as a sub and boos cascading from the stands. Van Gaal isn’t helped by inheriting a youth policy which in the past 20 years has delivered only one star, Paul Pogba, who, of course, in an ultimate irony for one of the world’s richest clubs, left for Juventus after an argument over wages.
The supporter’s anguish is perfectly summed up today in an open letter to the Glazers from the ManchesterLalaLa blog.

You are obviously intelligent, highly successful businessmen, but having been a United fan for 60 years, just like my father before me and his father before him, I have never seen such a clueless pair effectively in charge of this sporting empire.

I completely understand that Woodward is a star in your eyes on the commercial front, and that’s obviously where he belongs. But thanks to Woodward and Van Gaal, the football side has descended into farce, and if this continues, the damage to the brand will be disastrous. The core values at United are winning and doing it with style – something United are a million miles away from at this point in time.

This week Columbia Sportswear was added to the money roll as yet another sponsor. But what good is a worldwide brand if the team at its heart doesn’t perform? You can only market the past for so long.
Meanwhile it’s reported that Jose Mourinho has written a 6 page letter to the board outlining his credentials, and explaining why he should be immediately appointed as manager. Jorge Mendes, Mourinho’s agent and friend of Ed Woodward, rejected the report as “ridiculous and absurd”. I hope so because unless you believe in winning at all costs Mourinho’s practical approach and theatrical temperament is not right for United.
After the match Van Gaal acknowledged the supporters’ right to boo. You have to admire him for that. If only the Glazers would do the same.

4738447My very good friend Steve and his son James, a David De Gea bonkers 10 year old, are season ticket holders at Old Trafford. Steve who’s an avid reader of this blog sent this e mail today:

Was a great win yesterday from an awful team, two Liverpool fans at my work said I must be embarrassed by the result and performance yesterday, I just smiled at them shook my head and said yes doesn’t it feel great !!

Still not convinced by LVG and his boring football, honestly its dire going to old Trafford, I kept telling James it didn’t used to be like this but think it may last for a while yet

Says it all really.  A father worries about his son and most of all wants to share those magical weekend moments they can relive forever. This is their third year of season tickets. James’ memories are Moyes and Van Gaal football, and the rebuilding job. Poor lad. His Grandma says he’s a built in noisemaker in the house. Can you imagine how loud he would get if United woke up and wowed Old Trafford?

To be honest the mailbox lit up since Rooney’s net bulger. Another email said:

Sack em all.

I was hoping they would lose the next three matches to provoke a real crisis, rather than limp along like this. Then Van Gaal and maybe even Woodward would go, and maybe, just maybe the Glazers would sell.


Serious even heretical stuff. But let’s face it there’s no chance of the Glazers selling or even Woodward getting the sack while Adidas, Chevrolet, DHL, Aeroflot, Aon, and the legions of fast food, beer, wine, noodles, paint, diesel engines and medical equipment sponsors hand over the billions to the brand. In the meantime maybe we should get T shirts made? Brand On The Run.

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Steve, James and the rest of us will just have to wait while hopefully that sponsorship money is translated to success on the field. As argued here loud and often, the problem with that is great players want to win the Champions League; the soon to be great players are hard to identify (see Memphis DePay); and the could be great players are coveted by their clubs – see Harry Kane.

With Adidas’s help United could land a biggie this summer, but is a biggie like Bale or Reus or Muller enough? And what about John Stones? Can United get him if Barcelona are interested? Then there’s the Mt.Everest of “what ifs”. What happens if they are 5th and don’t win the Europa Cup? No biggie for Ed, Louis, the sponsors and most of all us – that’s what.

Sunday’s game highlighted one fallen superpower who can’t buy it’s way back. Let’s hope there weren’t two on the pitch.

The clock is now ticking on an impossible mid-season transfer window. I’ve argued for months that Van Gaal deserves time. I’m sticking with that conviction. It’s not his fault he can’t truly let the players off the leash. He hasn’t got the players.

Couple of last thoughts. There’s another blast about Rooney in the United Rant today. Obviously he will never have the burst or be the same player again. He’s had 14 seasons of being kicked. But he’s still scored 5 in 4 games and you would not want that chance on Sunday, in that position, falling to any other player.

And finally brilliant stuff from Carrick, Jones and Rojo to go in with the crowd. Just brilliant.

No offence to the Jamie Vardy Show, and congrats to Vardy, but his opener and Premiere League’s consecutive scoring streak record setter was a poor goal from United’s point of view. Young gave him a free pass over the final 5 yards and Vardy’s specialty is scoring from that angle. United never looked like losing today, but again possession didn’t translate to goals. United had 69% of the play yet it took a set piece and some true grit from Schweinsteiger to force an equaliser.

leicester-man-utd-schweinsteiger_1Add today to his efforts at Watford last week and Schweinsteiger is taking some games by the throat.The Manchester Evening News quite rightly labels the German  “a captain without the armband” and he looked like a man on a mission all day.  Less could be said for the forwards. Martial is having a blip; Mata is going through a poor stretch; and Rooney just looks tired.

The days of Squeaky Bum Time for now perhaps should be labelled Rusty Bum Time. Things are just taking a bit more time to get going.  The focus remains on defensive organization and solid fundamentals and it will probably remain so all season. After today’s game Gary Neville echoed what a lot of us have been saying, United are very close to a championship team but…..

“……they need that match-winner, that Neymar, that Luis Suarez, the one that is going to light up a game and score one or two goals to take it away, then all of a sudden they would look like a Barcelona, because they’re dominating possession, making teams look foolish.

“Even in the last 15 minutes, they didn’t fully commit to winning the game. Historically, you would like to see punch after punch, you would want to see bodies being thrown forward, but you might get caught on the counter attack and lose 2-1 that way.

We all know the no risk approach is driving some critics and fans bonkers. Probably no-one understands that more than Van Gaal. Who wants to be the manager of The World’s Most Criticized Team?

louis-van-gaal-manchester-united-fc-v-pfc-cska-moskva-uefa-champions-league-03112015_17exe4tpuyji313tgpjzl8ku13Not the greatest of displays agreed. So where do we start? Roy Keane’s attack on Wayne Rooney? Paul Merson’s view that United are a Subbuteo team? The Daily Mail’s Snoozeometer Ratings? The mystery player who says he can be 50% better if only Van Gaal would release him from his shackles? (my bet is it’s DePay). Rene Meulensteen echoing the “free the players” mantra. The Manchester Evening News criticizing the fans? Or Rio Ferdinand talking about the missing “animal” players?

Wow. It’s a good job United are second in the league and still have a chance of winning their Champions League qualifying group.

Enough already. Can everyone please shut up?

Rooney can’t carry the team on his own.

The team is set up the way it is because that’s currently the way they can succeed. Anyone remember Boring Arsenal or Don Revie’s first great Leeds team? Or countless Italian, German and yes Spanish teams with a defend first approach?

This is my mantra: Players determine tactics.

Now I’ll get critical. Meulensteen said earlier this week that Jesse Lingard is Andres Iniesta in waiting. You mean the Lingard that’s missed three sitters in the past two games? If Rooney gets those chances they are buried. If Lingard scores the two last night all the stories of woe would have have been spiked. Instead the headlines would have been about United’s latest youth academy product delivering his full potential or some such other guff and United winning the group with a game to play.


The glass is just about half full on Lingard, but he’s nervous and he gives the ball away too many times as well as missing sitters. I’d never start a game without Mata but that’s me. What do I know?

There is no God given right that United are going to blow teams away. Over the years too many Tuesday and Wednesday night Champions League and European Cup fixtures prove that.

Finally the Guardian projected which team will be top of the league on January 1st 2016. Guess which team it is? Correct their home is Old Trafford.

This is a time for patience grasshoppers. An away win at Leicester solves the current angst







Watching Van Gaal walk slowly down the touchline after the game you got the feeling that here was a man who knew two points had slipped away and can’t wait to get the check book out again.

Football - Manchester United v Manchester City - Barclays Premier League - Old Trafford - 25/10/15 Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal Action Images via Reuters / Jason Cairnduff Livepic EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or

United are solid at the back and in midfield, but as we all know it’s the final third where the magic is missing. Martial is terrific but he needs help. In my opinion Rooney can still contribute, but another forward of proven pace and danger is obviously needed. The clamor to remove Rooney is deafening. After yesterday the Republik of Mancunia let his stats make the point. They weren’t good. His passing was poor, and he had no shots on target. But he is being asked to play a very hard role and he too needs support. Better players are needed. But can you make them available in January? First United have to qualify for the next round of the Champions League. Then the balancing act is if a proven striker is available whose team is out of the Champions league but could contribute to the League and Cup campaigns, do you get that player and another centre half? Or do you try and buy someone who contributes in all competitions?

It shows how tough it is to rebuild and take United to the next level. There are some good players in the current team. Smalling, Jones, Rojo, Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger and Martial were excellent on Sunday and afterwards Van Gaal’s verdict was measured:

I am very proud of my players because I think we played 90 minutes of a tough game. Both sides played a very tactical game. It was very compact and organised, that is how Manchester City played against us. They adapted the line-up against us.

“Against Sevilla in the Champions League, they played with two strikers and now they played with one, with one more player in midfield,so it was a tough game. We created more chances but we didn’t finish them and that is the disappointment because you must win these kinds of games for the fans. It is the derby and when you are so focused and so concentrated like we were today then, yeah, you deserve to win. But sometimes you don’t get what you deserve.”

For me the match felt it was played by two teams tired by playing in Europe. United’s squad is thin. I’ve been saying since August Memphis/Depay is a bust and with Shaw out and Lingard still learning, that leaves Darmian, Blind, Young, Valencia and Romero as the frontline squad players. City were without Aguero and Silva, yet apart from Martial Sunday’s game lacked craft and penetration where it mattered. De Gea didn’t have a meaningful save to make, Hart made one rush off his line to deprive Mata and a good save from Smalling at the death. There was almost half a billion pounds in transfer fees on the pitch and both sides were laboured.

I’m sure United are working hard in the background to do something in January.

On the face of it in recent years United have never been in a better position going into a Derby. I don’t want to tempt the footballing Gods, it is a Derby, anything can happen, City have deep resources, and all of that psycho babble. But United should win. Take that. City are without their two best players in Aguero and Silva. If Navas plays the right side is wide open. If Kompany plays he’s injury prone. Fernandinho and Fernando should be an Abba song. De Bruyne is a very good player, Sterling is quick and Toure is a balletic bulldozer. Van Gaal will tinkering and tailoring, but apart from Luke Shaw everyone is available for United and that includes Young. Don’t believe the he hasn’t played for three weeks doodah. He’s trained all this week.

It was Rooney’s birthday on Friday and I watched the recent BBC documentary about him. Forget the soft pedal approach by Gary Lineker that goes with getting access to a very private man, what jumps in any review of Rooney’s career is his talent, goals record, longevity, competitiveness, and sheer love of the game. He’s been a great servant to United and England. He remains a top class player and anyone who doesn’t recognize that is a moron. When you watch a review of his 13 plus years you can only applaud his talent. Even without the burst he’s better than most.  Remember this?

Let’s hope he scores on Sunday. Happy 30th.

For whatever reason United lurched out of the gate and Arsenal instantly showed why October is going to be a very difficult month. As Arsenal fizzed and sparkled, United were lethargic and ponderous.  The spectacular goals from Sanchez and Ozil, and an excellent display from Walcott underlined a terrific Arsenal performance, particularly after their mid-week Champions League loss to Olympiakos. United did improve slightly in the second half, but it was a very large dose of medicine.


Post match Van Gaal summed up everyone’s feelings about a very bad day at the office:

“I didn’t expect that. I was surprised. Not performing our game plan. No will to win. I didn’t see that and when you were top of the league so I was surprised, amazed, maybe that is a better word.

When you give a team like Arsenal so much space to play football you know that you shall lose and we have prepared ourselves in that way to play more compact but don’t lose your aggression. So it was amazing for me. I was very disappointed.

I don’t know why it happened like that. I put that question at half time and also after the match. But it was also difficult for the players to answer because they are all in an emotional moment.

We lost in a way you shouldn’t when you are top of the league. You cannot start like we started and the players know that.

We were not slow we just didn’t have the aggression. Players like Schweinsteiger and Carrick have great positional feeling to play football but then still you need aggression and winning the second balls.

You have to do it not just with the two in midfield but like a team. You have to play compact. But you need aggression when you have a duel and Arsenal were more aggressive than Manchester.”

So what happens now? Most of the squad have left for international duty. Van Gaal and his staff will be at Carrington with no one to talk to but themselves, and the questions are piling up.

Can Schweinsteiger and Carrick start together as a defensive midfield paring?

Why not play Schneiderlin every game with one of them alongside?

Is Memphis/Depay a Manchester United player?.

How do you solve the full back headache?

Should Rooney be dropped?

One game shouldn’t send everyone running for the life boats. After all United are third on goal difference. If you want to see a crisis look at Chelsea, Liverpool or Sunderland. Rodgers and Advocaat gone, and knee jerk questions being asked about Mourinho’s survival. City’s hammering of Newcastle came after two league defeats on the trot.

However with Palace away and City at home on the horizon, not to mention the almost 4000 mile trip to CSK Moscow, there’s not a lot of time to go back to the drawing board. My guess is there will be significant changes for the game at Everton.

A couple of years ago four of us created a lunch club we call The 4 Reds. Our lunches can last all afternoon, and usually involve at least 4 bottles of red wine while discussing everything United. Two of the group were in touch this week, and both entered the Rooney debate.

One is of the opinion… ” Rooney is done, doesn’t contribute enough anymore, and his best position is as a defensive screening midfielder.” The other believes he still has things to offer: …… “at last we have found/nicked/overpaid for a front man who actually wants to be a front man. This does two things: gives the midfield players more options for a pass, and allows Rooney to use his energy and football nous properly. When he plays as a lone striker (as for England of late) he wastes so much effort trying to harass their back four players for absolutely no return.”

I’ve been a enthusiastic Rooney supporter and defender but I am getting to the point where I do believe his future at the club may not last beyond this season. The burst has gone. The touch is not as sure as it was. He can huff and puff but he can’t blow the door down anymore.

The United Rant blog has an excellent piece this week exploring whether Rooney should be dropped and replaced in the secondary striker role by Mata. The writer challenges Van Gaal to continue the team’s evolution by dropping his captain.

This evolution has made Rooney less relevant; Mata’s form and Martial’s explosive start to life at United dictate that Van Gaal should be brave and drop his captain. Yet, the manager’s words after United’s victory over Wolfsburg point towards Wayne staying in the team, unduly untouchable. Worse still, Van Gaal refused to give Mata the plaudits he deserved after a magnificent night.

I’m not quite there for dropping Rooney yet. If all players are fit I’d replace Memphis/Depay rather than Rooney, and play Young in the wide left position. However the current problems at fullback may mean Van Gaal postpones the decision. One thing is certain however, if Rooney continues to struggle there is no doubt Van Gaal will do something about it. Rooney will become the latest to potentially face Old Trafford’s exit door. There is no sentiment in football. Even when you are close to goal scoring records. Even when you have been a terrific servant.

And speaking of the exit door, try this in the pub. One of the 4 Reds added the players recently let go, pulled in a few more from the past 5 years and built two teams of ex-Reds currently plying their trade in the Premiere league.

The clear out as you say has been enormous, and I was reminded of it while watching WBA v Everton with five ex-Reds on view. Even Darren Gibson had a run out! You could easily field two PL teams from those who have left Old Trafford in the last few years, and that does not take into account those like Van Persie, Nani, Hernandez, Kagawa, Pogba across the channel. How about

Howard; Bardsley, Shawcross, Evans, De Laet; Fletcher, Cleverley, Brady; Zaha, Djouff, Wellbeck

Foster/Lindegaard; Brown, Chester, Cathcart, O’Shea; Gibson, Drinkwater, Richardson; Obertan, Falcao, Campbell

Now for Arsenal on Sunday. You watch Rooney will have a blinder and make mugs of all of us.