Take on Fergie at your peril


Wayne Rooney may have bitten off more than he can chew by taking on Sir Alex Ferguson. Rooney is thought to have crossed the line that so many others before him have crossed, and it may be the beginning of the end for him as a Manchester United player.

Ferguson is notoriously stubborn in these situations and he has been here before, of course. David Beckham, Roy Keane, Paul Ince, Jaap Stam and Ruud van Nistelrooy were world-class players who were forced out of the club after clashing with the manager.

Ferguson has stood by Rooney through his difficulties which may have disappointed the Scot more than anything. When Rooney was struggling at the World Cup, it was Ferguson who gave him a phone call to tell him to enjoy himself and prove to everyone how good he is. After the disastrous campaign in South Africa, again, it was Ferguson who granted Rooney an extended holiday to recover and convalesce into the player we saw just months earlier but Rooney wanted to return earlier than planned to put the World Cup behind him. And Ferguson, reluctantly, agreed. He played 45 minutes in the Community Shield win against Chelsea, and assisted Antonio Valencia’s opener and he was believed to be rehabilitated. But then came the relapse.

Rooney’s form didn’t recover and has failed to find the net in open play since that night in Munich, only mustering a penalty-kick against West Ham in August. His off-the-field antics then came to light which forced Ferguson to drop him for a return to former club Everton to save him from the ‘terrible abuse’ that he would endure. Rooney was re-instated to the team in a lacklustre performance against Rangers and his uninspiring display was cause for concern. This prompted Ferguson to call Rooney into his office. Ferguson told Rooney that he would not be travelling with the United squad to face Sunderland and should go away with England, enjoy himself and come back rejuvenated and raring to go. Rooney was not happy and decided to get his word out there.

Speaking in the media mixed zone after the England game, where players have the option to turn down interviews, Rooney stopped to speak to anyone who’d listen and a small, simple sentence may have incurred Fergie’s wrath – “I don’t know.”

This was his response to questions about why Sir Alex has said he has been suffering from an ankle injury.

Fergie responded by benching him in the 2-2 draw with West Brom on Saturday, opting for Dimitar Berbatov and Javier Hernandez instead.

Despite the supposed bust-up with the manager, what’s behind this is clear. Wayne Rooney’s contract at Old Trafford is up in the summer of 2012 and he and his advisors see this as his last big payday. Rooney wants to double his current wage of £90,000 a week and is threatening to quit United if his demands aren’t met.

The Glazers will be rubbing their hands in glee as cashing in on Rooney would be exactly what they would want. But where could Rooney go?

Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea and even Manchester City have been mooted as possible destinations for Rooney but Madrid President Jorge Valdano has denied reports linking his club with the England star. Barcelona couldn’t come up with the cash to sign Cesc Fabregas in the summer and have the likes of David Villa and Lionel Messi on their books.

It would be wrong to suggest Wayne Rooney would walk into any of these teams. Chelsea have been desperately trying to shed their wage bill so a move to Stamford Bridge doesn’t look likely. That just leaves City. United wouldn’t want to even entertain the idea but as Carlos Tevez, Peter Schmeichel and Denis Law have proved, it’s not impossible to cross the city divide.

There is a way back for Rooney though. Nemanja Vidic played hard-ball with United last season over a new contract and it looked like he was on his way out in the summer but a compromise was reached and he is now the new club captain. Even in 1989, Mark Hughes, United’s talisman, received a similar treatment to which Rooney is going through now. He fell out with Fergie but swallowed his pride to help United to their first league triumph in 26 years.

Rooney is playing a dangerous game because history suggests that Fergie always wins, and his record proves that no one player is bigger than Manchester United.

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  • chrisw says:

    Five reasons why Ferguson can’t just handle this the way he usually does:

    1) The transfer window. Normally he gets rid of trouble-makers quickly. Now he has to wait until January and most clubs don’t want to spend big then anyway. He’ll probably have Rooney around until the summer and he can’t just not play him or his value will go down. Plenty of time to make up, which might be a wiser choice for both of them.

    2) Man United have already lost Ronaldo and Tevez. Rooney is now clearly their most important player and there is no plausible replacement. Rooney is also their most marketable star. Unlike the other players Fergusom sacked they can’t afford to lose him without badly damaging the results on the field.

    3) Money. You don’t get much money from panic sales. For example Van Nisterooy fetched a derisory £10m. This didn’t matter when United were rich. But it will take serious money to buy players to make up for the loss of Rooney, money United won’t have unless someone offers big bucks.

    4) Ferguson’s imminent retirement. Falling out with Rooney may be counted as a misjudgement on Ferguson’s part. He’s in a less strong position asking the owners to back him and sell the club’s star player when everyone knows he won’t be around much longer.

    5) The Glazers. They need a regular top four place to make their financial plans viable. Does losing Rooney put that at risk? They might not sanction a sale. Ferguson may then resign, allowing the Glazers to replace him without incurring the wrath of the fans because they are seen to be standing by Rooney.

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