Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Trouble With Wazza

I forgive people. It's what I do. It's how I was raised. And it explains in part why I find it so difficult to understand all the venom that's been spewed in the direction of Wayne Rooney lately by so many Manchester United fans. 

I get the feeling of guttural disappointment. I get it. But just as two wrongs don't make a right, meeting Rooney's transfer request with vile name calling and ill wishes upon the player and his family doesn't feel to me like the right reaction to the striker's current situation. And to read Twitter lately is to understand how out of control that situation has become. 

This is not a piece to defend Rooney in any way. Regular raiders of this blog may remember our severe disappointment at the Englishman's first request to leave United. For many of us, it's when the bloom first came off the rose in our relationship with Wazza.  While we never engaged in the "Roo-nay" "Roo-nay" idol worship that greeted his every appearance on the pitch three years ago, we understood his talismanic relationship with the fans. We understood the appreciation for his tremendous work rate, his willingness to run down every ball, and to hustle back and forth to the ends of the pitch. 

And despite forgiving Rooney for his first request -- we blame his advisor, Paul Stretford, more than the player for putting the Englishman in a virtually untenable position -- we gradually overcame our disappointment. The goals and the drive certainly helped. Gradually, the disappointment seemed just to seep into the background, a part of Rooney's history to be sure, but no longer a defining part of his history. No, we'd rather remember THAT goal against City, and the season of 30+ goals in which he appeared to develop a telepathic relationship with Antonio Valencia, a partnership that applied salve to the still fresh wound created by the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid. 

And just as we put the issue behind us, so did Rooney. He went about and did his work. He let his feet do the talking on the pitch.  He scored goals -- lots of them. Maybe not so many as in years past, but no one can question his work rate or desire to win, or his impact on our team. 

What one can question is Rooney's maturity, a well as his judgment. Perhaps we can understand Wazza's disappointment in light of his age: sure he's no longer a teenager, but I'd like to meet the reader out there who didn't continue to improve their understanding of how life really works as they got older. It's one of the few benefits of aging. And as far as judgment goes, surrounding himself with Paul Stretford has not been helpful to Rooney's relationship with the Club and its fans -- maybe to his pocketbook, but there's more to life than just money. 

So we invite you to put yourself in someone else's shoes -- or, more specifically, Wayne Rooney's boots. Think for a minute that perhaps the feeling of disappointment is natural from his point of view. He's no longer the team's top star. He's not the first name on the team sheet. He's no longer on the pitch for every game. But that's something he'll need to learn to deal with wherever he goes: Life goes on, new stars emerge, speed slows, and youth ages.  Rooney's decision to ask to leave again is rooted in frustration, not lack of passion, or disappointment with Manchester United -- and ultimately it's hard for this writer to be too critical of someone who just wants to play the game, and still has a lot to offer his team. 

Sure, I vastly prefer the "take one for the team" attitude of Javier Hernandez, who must vent his frustration on the practice pitch and in the gym. And I always preferred the quiet dignity of Dimitar Berbatov, who had every reason to be upset with his lack of playing time, yet never complained publicly -- not once. But I understand Rooney's feelings -- borne out of passion -- and I don't hold them against him, at least not the way I did the first time. 

And while I am prepared to see him go, if that's what he and our new Manager decide is the best path forward, I don't do it with a black heart. Forgive and move one, I say. It's what my parents taught me to do, and I would suggest it's what most Manchester United fans ought to do, as well. 

This is farlieonfootie for May 14. 

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