'Little Scouse lad' facing wrath of dressing-room
IT was left to Lou Macari to extemporise on how it would have felt to be a Manchester United player an hour or so before kick-off on Wednesday night, as the football world was still digesting Wayne Rooney's written declaration that his team-mates are, frankly, not good enough.
"I have never known a player to have the cheek to do what he has done," Macari said. "Had he been playing in the '70s or '80s, the players in the dressing-room... well, they would have left him in no doubt and would have asked him just what he was playing at. They think they are good enough to win trophies. Does he not think that? It's a slight on his fellow professionals."
And of the notion of Rooney knocking on chief executive David Gill's door to tell him he doubted the "continued ability of the club to attract the best players in the world", as Rooney put it, Macari said: "I know some of the players who have come and gone: better players than Wayne Rooney. I have never known any of them to have the cheek to ask the people who run the best football club in the world what they are doing. I can't imagine this little Scouse lad going to David Gill or the manager and asking what is going on."
Such was the tenor of the backlash yesterday against Rooney's written explanation of his desire to leave, which has proved to be an unmitigated disaster, artful though it was in drawing attention away from money -- the fundamental reason for his intended departure -- and on to United's decision (or "inability," as Rooney sees it) not to spend big.
The expectation had been that the United players would troop through Wednesday night's mixed zone, heads down, dodging the controversy, and if Rooney had not published his thoughts then maybe that's how it would have been. But one by one the players stopped, revealing in so doing that Ferguson's dressing-room will never be the same again for as long as Rooney graces its four walls.
Patrice Evra's suggestion that Rooney should not play for United again was the most brutal assessment.
"If one player does not trust the other players, that player should not play," he said. "I am not like that as I trust everyone and I know we can win." But Darren Fletcher, who has also known the distraction of another club's attentions, but prospered after declining the move to Everton two summers ago, seemed betrayed, too.
"We have not known about (any of) this, so it is just as much a shock to us as it is to everyone else."
The players were speaking at the end of one of the most extraordinary evenings Old Trafford had known. It is not such a 'shock' to some of Rooney's confidantes as it was to Fletcher that the 24-year-old has harboured doubts about United's spending and that he has been mesmerised by Yaya Toure's extraordinary salary. (City sources have clarified that the figure is a little short of £200,000 a week, including all bonuses). But 'shock' seems to reflect Ferguson's feelings.
The manager again rebutted Rooney with surprising candour on Wednesday night, detailing how United actually had bid for a marquee player this summer, who proved unwilling to leave for England.
That player was David Villa, whose departure from Valencia to Barcelona means that United have been beaten to the punch on transfers by a big Spanish side two summers running.
Ferguson also sanctioned a £35m bid that matched Lyon's asking price for Karim Benzema the previous year that was accepted, only for the deal to fail because of the player's £200,000 wage demands.
Of course, no one takes issue with pay structures when you are winning. But United are neither champions nor a side with the look of champions-elect and the manager is trying to hold it together again. (© Independent News Service)