Belfast Telegraph

Wayne Rooney will never be adored at Manchester United like George Best

By Steven Beacom

For once Tuesday night brought us an interesting exchange between post match television interviewer and player. Normally the questions are banal and the answers cliched. "One game at a time", "the boys gave 100%" that sort of stuff.

But with Wayne Rooney at the microphone, and at last addressing the nation following all that summer speculation about him moving from Manchester United to Chelsea, we were right to expect something different.

It wasn't New Year's Eve fireworks, more a sparkler that lasts 15 seconds, but hey, better than nothing.

Rooney had just scored two goals and played extremely well for United in their 4-2 Champions League group stage victory over Bayer Leverkusen, taking his tally to an impressive 200 for the club.

ITV's experienced interviewer Gabriel Clarke started with the performance, the results, the goals... then got to the crux of the matter.

Clarke: Your name is being sung here again. Are you happy here again?

Rooney: Listen, I'm concentrating on me football as I've done all summer. I've put my head down and worked hard to get myself fit and ready for the season. I'm delighted the way I have come back and delighted that I'm back playing and scoring goals.

Clarke: There has been a lot of speculation. Did you ever ask to leave?

Rooney, angered by the question and glaring at Clarke: "Listen, I've just told you I'm concentrating on me football which I've been doing all summer."

And, unlike Wayne in the summer, the interview moved on.

Rooney had the opportunity to put all those 'transfer request' rumours to bed, but didn't bother.

"I'm concentrating on me football," was all he would say in that unmistakable scouse tone.

If he continues to concentrate on his football the way he did against Bayer Leverkusen, United boss David Moyes will be content with that. So to his team-mates and indeed the fans.

Rooney excelled. He doesn't look any leaner than last season, but on the evidence of Tuesday he does look fitter, faster and meaner.

This is all good for a Manchester United side needing their big guns firing following the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, who by my reckoning was worth 15 points per season on his own.

Amid all the headlines about Rooney, some commentators will tell you that one of the key reasons for Rooney's commitment against the Germans was that he is feeling loved again, with Ferguson, who he fell out with last season, now upstairs and Moyes replacing him as manager.

Forget that. Rooney is the type of player who will always be committed. He could be playing football in his local park with his little lad Kai and he'd still put it all in.

Once he has a ball at his feet, he turns into the kid growing up in Croxteth playing with his mates.

It's when a ball is nowhere near him and he's away from the pitch that his commitment to the United cause has come into question.

Wayne Rooney has scored 200 goals for United. Wayne Rooney has also wanted to leave United on two occasions.

Hardcore fans might cheer him for the former, but they'll not forget the latter.

Once was questionable, twice just plain disrespectful.

The first was in 2010 and the second in the summer. (Remember Gabriel Clarke gave him ample opportunity to deny it).

You may say what about the rousing reception afforded Rooney when he was substituted on Tuesday? Football fans would stand and applaud an evil warlord from outer space if he scored goals for their team in a big game!

As for the chants of "Rooney, Rooney, Rooney" echoing around the stadium, that was no surprise either because it's a natural reaction and also it happens to be an easy song to sing, which funny enough plays a major role in which players are lauded from the stands.

In their heart of hearts United fans know that Wayne wanted away from them.

He may be rated by those on the Stretford End and the many thousands of Northern Ireland based supporters who make the pilgrimage to the Theatre of Dreams every season. He may also be feted during games.

And of course they would prefer him to play for them rather than major rivals such as Chelsea, but unlike Sir Alex, George Best, Denis Law, Bobby Charlton, Bryan Robson, Roy Keane and Paul Scholes, he will now never be truly loved after all that has gone before.

Even if he scores another 200 goals!

Belfast Telegraph


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