Wayne, it’s over. It’s looked that way for a long time now. It was great while it lasted. The debut at 16 for Everton, the rampaging performances at Euro 2004 and the selfless running out of position for United have all taken their toll on your body. Your pace has gone, your energy depleted, your knees are knackered and your legacy is fading.
It’s a brutal way to sum up United and England’s all-time scorer.
Football can be a fickle game. Fans idolise you one week and abuse you the next. With Rooney at the moment it’s not even that. Just a long agonising wait to see him leave. There were a few chants of “Rooney, Rooney” when he slotted his penalty home against Swansea at the weekend, but the club captain did little to inspire his team with an insipid typical late-career Rooney performance.
We’re looking to the future and Wayne isn’t a part of it. When he goes, will many of us care? I doubt it.
So, Wayne. What happened?
It’s hard to think Rooney was ahead of Ronaldo when they were both teenagers at United. He seemed to have harnessed his big talent much better. Ronaldo showed glimpses but had the inconsistency of youth. Rooney already did it every week for United.
But Wayne stood still. Ronaldo didn’t. One became the footballing equivalent of Muhammad Ali, determined to be the greatest and doing everything possible to make that a reality.
The other became the footballing equivalent of Ricky Hatton, letting himself go out of season, smoking and drinking, then pushing his body to get back to peak physical fitness pre-season.
Rooney’s record for United can’t be sniffed at, but he’s never really been close to a Ballon d’Or. United fans want to see the best in the world. It really feels like talent wasted.
Fergie instilled a drive in all his players, as well as a respect for the club. The minute you lost that, believed your own hype and acted bigger than the club, you were out. It happened with Jaap Stam, Roy Keane, David Beckham and Ruud van Nistelrooy.
Rooney became bigger than the club and refused to admit his mistakes. He flirted with leaving United numerous times, with the wealth at City and Chelsea used as leverage to secure his current deal. The claim it was down to the club’s lack of ambition leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.
Fergie gift wrapped Rooney’s exit for David Moyes who completely ignored it, while van Gaal pandered to Rooney’s desire to play in midfield, playing to his ego and self-styled “new Paul Scholes” tag.
For the last few years he’s hung around, offering little on the pitch, not letting the club move on, bagging his huge salary, embarrassing himself in the press, and lifting trophies for a cup final he didn’t even play in. It’s all a bit self-indulgent.
Rooney has scored three times as many goals as Eric Cantona did for United. He has more Premier League winners’ medals than the Frenchman, and he’s got a Champions League winner’s medal.
On Saturday, Cantona’s name reverberated around Old Trafford, 20 years after he played his last game for United.
Will the same happen for Rooney 20 years from now? I doubt it.