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Reading between the lines on Rooney's exit rumours

Manchester United Training & Press Conference

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – MARCH 04: Wayne Rooney of Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson look on during a training session at Carrington Training Ground on March 4, 2013 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

It was surprising to read how many national dailies quickly wrote off Wayne Rooney as a has-been, after he started from the bench against Real Madrid on Tuesday.

It felt like the same story was traced using carbon paper and published across all the English papers after rearranging the text. Epilogues to his career at Manchester United were written, and they just stopped short of coming across as an obituary.

“The writing is on the wall for Rooney,” they said and it presented a grim picture for a man whom the press sung eulogies, not so long ago.

The story was blown out of proportion and it was linked to the way David Beckham left the club, after he was dropped from the team playing Real Madrid. After a series of heated showdowns between Beckham and Sir Alex Ferguson, he moved to Real Madrid. Strangely, they did not link Rooney being dropped to the case of Ruud van Nistelroy, another player who left United for Real Madrid.

van Nistelroy was benched in the final game of the 2005-06 season and he left Old Trafford, three hours before kickoff, in a huff. Rooney has done none of the above to even raise the question of him moving to another club.

Former United striker Carlos Tevez was dropped from the starting XI when Real Madrid paid Manchester City a visit in the group stages of this season’s Champions League. He, like Rooney, played for the full 90 minutes in the previous match, and also scored twice. Yet, he only came on in the second half in the game against Madrid. Where was the “writing on the wall” for Tevez?

It’s a tedious job reading the same rehashed narratives written by the same columnists, moaning about how Rooney never fulfilled his true potential. The expectations can be crushing, especially for a prodigy like Rooney, who took the world by storm in Euro 2004. Sometimes, it feels like the English press is hot-housing its stars like English parents do to their children sitting for their GCSEs. And it was silly to draw comparisons between Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo. True, their careers took off from the same point, i.e  at United, but each went off on a different tangent. It may be ridiculous to put them together in the same bracket but he isn’t far off from where Ronaldo is.

The argument is that Rooney isn’t the same player who he was once was; like the teenager who chased down the opposition to win back the ball. Ferguson, it seems, has hammered him on an anvil to fit him into the United mould. Ferguson did not exactly break his spirit but made him a better player. He may not be on the same page as Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, but he enjoys playing for United. He espouses the same ideal, like Ferguson does, that he is here to do service for the club and not the other way down.

As for the English press: they are always on the lookout for heroes. They will drop Wayne Rooney – even before the ink dries – just like they dropped Paul Gascoigne, and move on to the next “big thing” that happened to English football.

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