Arsene Wenger is a self-professed admirer of Wayne Rooney. Ever since the teenager announced himself to the football world with a stunning goal against us at Goodison Park, the Frenchman has been clear about his enthusiasm for the nation’s brightest footballing talent. When Rooney left Everton, however, we weren’t in a position to get near either Newcastle or United’s bid. And what’s more, it wouldn’t have mattered: Rooney is a north-west boy, and United was always destined to be his club.
Well, not always. The events of recent days have seen the spectacular implosion of Rooney’s status as a United hero. His fall from grace has been as spectacular as his rise to prominence. Last night’s match at Old Trafford witnessed the unfurling of banners calling Rooney everything from a “whore” to a “disgrace”. He’s adamant he wants to leave, and I’m not sure he’d be welcomed back. The love affair, it seems, is over.
It raises the question of just where Rooney’s footballing future lies. The obvious candidates are Real Madrid, who carry the bargaining chip of Karim Benzema, and Manchester City, for whom the word ‘bargaining’ is anathema. However, given our manager’s clear and stated regard for the player, it’s not surprising that he’s been asked if he’d be interested in a potential bid.
I think, realistically, everyone knows it won’t happen. Rooney’s exorbitant demands rule us out of the running. It’s become clear he’s more motivated by money than many of us imagined. What’s more, Arsene insists we have a surplus of forwards, and with the likes of Van Persie, Chamakh, Bendtner, Vela, Walcott and Arshavin all on the books, it’s easy to see his point.
Many fans will be relieved: they wouldn’t want someone of Rooney’s character diminishing our great club. Others will be disappointed, feeling that his aggression and goalscoring knack are just what we need. In real life, however, they’ll never be asked to make a choice.
In real life.
The great thing about the Football Manager series is that it’s not real life. It’s fantasy. It allows you to play out these scenarios: to sell Andrey Arshavin and Robin van Persie and launch a big-money bid for Rooney. To shun Rooney and persevere with youth. To switch from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2, or even to re-sign Robert Pires.
We love football for what happens on the pitch, but we also love it for what doesn’t. We love it for the fantasy, for the possibility. Why do you think transfer windows bring the most traffic to this website? Not because my writing gets better, that’s for sure. It’s because we are drawn in by the the tantalising prospect of imagining how our club, our team, might look by the end of it. We’re all armchair managers. FM allows us to indulge that.
Thanks to Mirror Football you can now download the demo of Football Manager 11 early from the Mirror Football website. It’s a great opportunity to have hands-on go at the best football management game out there. And despite the fact that this is a ‘Sponsored Post’, I’m under no obligation to say that. I love this game.
If you prefer to game online, why not check out Mirror Football Goals.
In other, less sponsored news, Arsenal today held their AGM. Whilst a move for Rooney remains mere fantasy – and I can’t say I’m too disappointed about that – Arsene has confirmed he does have money to spend in the January transfer window.
The only circumstances in which I can envisage that happening would be if we were struck by an injury crisis. Hopefully our concerns there could be about to clear up, with the news that Thomas Vermaelen is only a few weeks away from returning. He’s a vital player for the team, but it’s a testament to the squad maintenance undertaken this summer that we haven’t missed him all that much. Squillaci, Koscielny and Djourou provide a reliability and depth that we’ve lacked in recent seasons.
The major headlines generated by today’s meeting have surrounded Cesc Fabregas. Speaking about the Spaniard’s future, Arsene said:
“Fabregas is a player who deeply loves the Club believe me.
I believe he wants to win with this Club. For how long I don’t know, but I hope for many years. He is part of our potential to win and for how well we will do.
You can understand he has an attraction to the club where he grew up. But I’m confident we will keep him for a few more years.”
It’s a bold statement. Many sections of the media, myself included (although admittedly I am but an amateur), assumed that Arsenal’s resistance to Barcelona’s interest could only hold them off for twelve months. It’s a pattern we’ve seen before: Thierry Henry stayed only to leave the following summer. Cristiano Ronaldo agreed to remain at United but departed after a year. Even Ashley Cole stayed at Arsenal under similar circumstances before joining Chelsea.
The difference between those situations, and indeed the one United are experiencing with Rooney, has been Cesc’s consummate professionalism. There haven’t been any strops or any ultimatums: he’s just got on with observing his contract and representing the club in the best way he can. As long as he continues to do so, he’ll remain in London. The player can always force a move if he decides to abandon his respect for his current employer. That just doesn’t feel like a very Cesc thing to do. When he does go, it will be amicable.
Finally today, Robert Pires has been linked with a move to Crawley Town. In a brilliantly opaque and hopefully intentionally hilarious Arsenal-esque statement, Crawley have said:
“It is not our policy to comment on transfer speculation.
“We only announce our signings when they are confirmed, which was exactly when we signed Matt Tubbs and Richard Brodie.”
I’m glad to see there’s still a sense of humour in football.