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Neither Rooney nor United Stand to Benefit From Messy Affair

“He’s definitely being looked after by the right club and the right manager and with the right people around him,” David Beckham (12/09/10)

Perhaps it’s one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s shortcomings. If you look past the trophies, the medals and the glory, you’ll find there are plenty of messy divorces at Old Trafford. Not all are enamoured with his hairdryer and not all believe in his methods. Just look at how he ruthlessly disposed of Paul Ince, Jaap Stam, David Beckham, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Roy Keane. Ferguson thrives on the notion that no one man is bigger than the club.

And he’s usually right of course. Ince fluttered around but never enjoyed similar success, Keane’s career was virtually over, Beckham only won one league winner’s medal in Madrid and without van Nistelrooy, United revolutionised behind a new, more fluid system. Only Jaap Stam, a man Ferguson regrets jettisoning, enjoyed plenty of highs after United.

Ferguson appeared to be the perfect mentor for Rooney

So the latest bust-up between Wayne Rooney and Ferguson isn’t all together surprising. But these are different circumstances and different times. United no longer have a stranglehold on the English game. If they cut off a limb, there is no guarantee it will simply grow back again in a different guise.

Ferguson is currently fighting battles on multiple fronts and this is simply a headache he doesn’t require. On the field, his porous defence has never looked so vulnerable, there’s a lack of depth in midfield and the quandary of what happens when Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes retire looms menacingly.  Off the field, Ferguson continues to shroud himself in a cloud of mystery by ignoring the media’s every inquisition. His defence of the Glazers becomes increasingly tiresome whilst his insistence that there is no value in the market has been ridiculed by Rafael van der Vaart, Adam Johnson and Mesut Özil amongst others.  

Meanwhile, Rooney lurches from one disaster to another. This year, he has been stalled by persistent injury problems and a lack of form. The youthful exuberance which once characterised England’s great hope has been replaced by apathy and reluctance. He has rolled out of a dismal World Cup straight into an off-field scandal jeopardising his new family. So if anyone needs to take a step back, attempt to fly under the radar for a while and allow his football to do the talking, it’s Rooney. You would think he’s in the perfect environment too. He’s at a club where he’s adored by the fans and his manager is an expert at deflecting attention away. But Rooney wants out.

Whether he is being badly advised or whether there’s more going on under the iron curtain than we know about is unclear. But neither side stands to benefit from this bizarre affair.

Both Rooney and Ferguson have a myriad of problems. But both are strong-willed, both are fighters and both are ultimately winners. This was meant to be the glue that held them together not the trigger to tear them apart.

This has the potential to be Ferguson’s messiest divorce yet but no deal can be made until January at the earliest and right now, Manchester United and Wayne Rooney appear to be in desperate need of each other.

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