On the pitch, footballers are our heroes. We kick every ball with them, wince at every tackle, rejoice at every goal and share their pain. Off it however not that many are very likable. I know the arrogant and not very intellectual stereotype of a football isn’t very fair but to be honest the number of footballers I actually enjoy following on Twitter are far too few. None less so than Wayne Mark Rooney.
One of my earliest memories of international football was Euro 2004. Being an impressionable 11 year old, I found an instant hero in the then 18 year old Rooney. Braces against Croatia and Switzerland were enough to put his name on the global map. Much to my delight Rooney immediately secured a move to Manchester United. He was given the number 8 jersey upon his arrival to Old Trafford and wasted no time in scoring a memorable hat-trick against Turkish side Fenerbahce in a 6-2 win on his debut.
Rooney then became an integral part of the United team that would ultimately go on to win 3 titles in a row between 2006-2009 and Champions League in the 2007- 08 season. Rooney along with Tevez and Ronaldo formed a pulsating front 3 with scary counter attacking pace and exciting fast football. Of course Rooney being Rooney was involved in his fair share of controversy on the way including the infamous Carvalho stamp and Ronaldo wink incident in the 2006 World Cup not to mention the numerous bookings that seemed the norm with him. Raw and exciting, Rooney was always ready to explode. Whether in the form of a rash tackle, a torrent of abuse or if we were lucky a stunning strike. No single piece of action epitomized Rooney more than the following volley against Newcastle. Enraged by the referee. Rooney responded by promptly volleying the ball with ferocious power into the top corner.
But most of all inside the angry young man was a little kid who couldn’t wait to get on to the field and kick a ball. Rooney would run a Marathon in sprints off the ball during a single game and would still find the energy to drive at opponents when he got the chance. Still not bestowed with the selfish streak that often characterises an out and out goalscorer, Rooney was great to watch. Running around the pitch, at times like a headless chicken, his hunger and desire soon won over plenty of fans.
While certainly not the most technically gifted, there was no denying that his was a precocious talent. He was one of the few ‘street footballers’ of the modern generation. This might be a bit unfair to him. After all this goal against Portsmouth in the FA Cup is not one the fans or indeed David James will easily forget.
The 2009-10 season is where Rooney really came into his own. With Ronaldo off to the new ‘Galacticos’ and Tevez to the noisy neighbours across town, Rooney certainly stepped up to the plate. Enjoying a new found partnership with Antonio Valencia, Rooney plundered 34 goals in 44 appearances. Plenty of them headed goals, which although had been steadily improving never really was his strong suit. For the first time in his career he looked comfortable in the role of a lone striker. This was most apparent in the dismantling of AC Milan in the San Siro. This however came at a price, Rooney had added discipline to his game which meant that most of that energy was now used intelligently. While this was arguably a more mature and dependable Rooney, it did mean the bags full of energy and exuberance that had endeared him to plenty was now missing. This was a Rooney 2.0 if you like. Despite missing the final couple of months of the season due to an injury sustained against Bayern in the Champions League, Rooney carried the hopes of the Nation at the World Cup. And this is where the problems started. Rooney and England limped out at the Round of 16 stage with Rooney criticizing the England fans for booing the team off the field. It was revealed later that his mind was elsewhere with tabloid allegations of his numerous off field dalliances round the corner.
However, the fans welcomed back Rooney with open arms looking forward to him spearheading yet another title charge. Little did they know that the man from Croxteth would bite the very hand that fed him.In October 2010, Sir Alex Ferguson revealed that Rooney wanted to leave Manchester United FC. Rooney cited lack of ambition of the club as his reason. It was a slap in the face of every supporter. Not only the statement but also the manner insulted not only the club but also his teammates and most importantly the fans. Stories circulating that City had already been in touch didn’t help things either. Following this statement, Sir Alex played a PR masterclass and Rooney made a dramatic U-turn and agreed a new five-year contract at Manchester United until June 2015. Either he’d been suddenly convinced that the club had become ambitious or possibly it could have had something to do with a small pay rise. But the damage had already been done. From a man who quite often claimed he would be privileged to finish his career at United in the same manner as the likes of Giggs and Scholes, his conduct was deplorable and frankly inexcusable. Gary Neville revealed that Rooney did apologize to the squad in training for his behaviour.
Despite Rooney having subsequently performed for Manchester United, he will never be adored by the fans like he once was. Provided he stays at Manchester United, I fully expect him to break Sir Bobby Charlton’s record of 249 club goals in 758 appearances (Rooney is currently on 181 goals in 365 appearances) . But not many of the Old Trafford faithful will mention him in the same breath. While I am a fan of Wayne Rooney, the Manchester United player I’m not a fan of Wayne Rooney the footballer. At least not yet. The wounds are still too raw. It’s a shame. Wayne Rooney could’ve become a God at Old Trafford. Wayne Rooney- My Hero? Not a chance.