Wayne Rooney scored a terrific hat-trick yesterday to cap off our brilliant comeback against West Ham. Somewhere between going absolutely mental at The New Paper Sports Bar and downing mug after mug of happy hour Tiger some of the lads were tapping my shoulder and giving those self-satisfied smirks that implied it was high time I started joining in the raucous singing of the Rooney song. You know, the one where “he goes by the name of Wayne Rooney”.
Naturally, of course, I didn’t. I don’t deny there was a huge grin plastered across my face and I was yelling for all it was worth when Rooney scored his third but I’m sorry, cheering and chanting his name is still out of the question. It’s not that I don’t want him to do well – I’m happy for Manchester United every time he scores – and I absolutely, definitely won’t boo him or swear at him but for me, he still hasn’t completed his long and winding road to redemption, and it’s because of that I won’t be singing the Rooney song for the foreseeable future.
Imagine if you had a husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend. Then imagine your partner told you that you were the love of his/her life and nothing could every replace you. Then, months after , you catch him/her in the bed with someone else. That’s exactly what Wayne Rooney did. He played his heart out last season and his fantastic performances on the pitch won the hearts of the United faithful. He kissed the United badge and claimed that he wanted to be like Giggs and play for United for the rest of his career. And the most galling part of it all was that we believed him. You could hear the Stretford End chanting his name week in and week out and when the lineups were being read out every matchday the loudest cheer was usually reserved for him. And because he was an Englishman through and through, we couldn’t imagine him doing a Ronaldo and going off to fulfill some ‘childhood dream’ of playing for the big clubs in continental Europe. He told the press that he loved the club and wanted to stay at Manchester for life and we all happily believed him.
We all, of course, know what happened next. He made a lackluster start to the season with the kind of form which, had it been Berbatov instead of Rooney, everyone would’ve been baying for the Bulgarian’s blood. He promptly proceeded to get involved in a messy sex scandal involving cheating on his pregnant wife with a woman old enough to be his grandmother and then started going up against the gaffer in the press moaning that he wasn’t getting enough playing time when Sir Alex was clearly trying to keep him out of the media frenzy surrounding him. Finally, he rounded off his shenanigans by dropping a bombshell on all of us in October by refusing a new contract and handing in a transfer request, citing the club’s lack of ambition as his reason for leaving.
Excuse me? Manchester United, lacking ambition? If competing on all fronts for silverware year in year out isn’t ambition, that what is? Or was there a more sinister, financial motive behind everything? Scott the Red at therepublikofmancunia.com is almost convinced that he had been speaking to City and even Ryan Giggs went on record to say that the fans and players had every right to be angry with him. It took a spark of man management genius from Sir Alex as well as a furious backlash from the fans to keep Rooney at the club and he eventually signed a new contract worth an estimated £200,000 a week, making him the highest paid player at Manchester United.
What pissed me off so badly was not his overinflated wages or the possibility that he had been speaking to City. It was the way he made continual declarations of his unfettered love for the club and we actually believed him. We lapped it all up. We were prepared to overlook his sex scandals and his poor form because he was Wayne Mark Rooney, our eternally loyal talisman who swore to play for the colours of red and white for the rest of his career. And then he repaid our support with a transfer request and blamed everything on the club’s ‘lack of ambition’. Did he really think we fans were really that thick?
We tend to forget things like that too easily. Too many of us were willing to forget that he had embarrassed us and made us all look like idiots after seeing him score a few goals for the club. Have we become as deluded as Chelsea or Liverpool fans, who worship mercenaries such as John Terry or Steve Gerrard as if the former didn’t agitate for a move to Manchester City while the latter said he wanted to leave for Chelsea. Can we honestly say, just after a few good games, we can sweep the whole thing under the carpet and pretend that nothing happened with Rooney?
I can’t, and that’s why I wouldn’t be singing for Rooney even if he scored ten more hat-tricks this season. He lied about his loyalty to the club and was rewarded with a new and improved contract. He betrayed the feelings of the fans that supported him and cheered for him every time he stepped out on to the pitch and I’ll be damned if I’m going to be made to look like a fool again. He lost the trust of the fans that believed in him and it’s going to take more than a season for to get back even one iota of forgiveness.
Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m advocating a lynching and that we should spend matches booing at him every time he gets the ball. He still wears the United colours and we should never boo one of our players, no matter how badly he plays or whatever he does – we have enough opposition fans doing that already, thank you very much. And I will still be happy when he scores, not because I’ve forgiven him, but because I am happy for Manchester United, the club that he plays for and I ultimately support. But to sing his name and cheer for him is to forgive too easily the way in which he pulled wool over our eyes and made a mockery of our devotion and loyalty as fans. And he still has a long way to go to win it back.