Value of loyalty means nothing to Rooney
Keane comments underline the greed and cynicism taking over game
We cannot be quite sure who authored that insulting, squirming statement of betrayal, perhaps never exceeded in the history of football, shortly before Manchester United went out to play a Champions League match this week.
No-one, though, is entitled to be surprised if it turns out to be an item on the latest invoice of Wayne Rooney's Mr God-knows-what per cent agent Paul Stretford.
But then let's give a little credit where it is due. Whether it was the agent or one of his cohorts, or perhaps even an erstwhile ghostwriter who penned a note remarkable for its unabashed self-interest, we shouldn't forget to tip our hats to the man who provided Rooney with a little, let's say, moral momentum.
It was another former hero of Old Trafford, Roy Keane. Keane spoke briefly and cussedly, and with typical self-orientated bitterness, but, as it happened, he made an illuminating contribution to an affair which might still have been causing a little confusion -- at least to those beleaguered football fans of all clubs, not just United, still harbouring the long-shot idea that Rooney's stand might be something more than an act of breathtaking cynicism and ingratitude.
Here was the core of Keane the manager's stab at football statesmanship: "If I was to offer advice to Wayne Rooney, who is a good lad, I would tell him to make sure he looks after No 1. Players are pieces of meat -- that's how I look at it. When your time's up, your time's up."
But then, Keano, how do you fill up that time after you have been transported from the backstreets to a Cheshire mansion; if you have been awarded a lifestyle and a wage bracket beyond the dreams of most; if you feel not a twinge of concern about lecturing the most successful manager in the history of English football on the imperatives of ambition -- and doing so in a period when your form and your image has never been so low?
What do you do with time and ambition, Keano? Do you just go trotting off to the highest bidder, do you look down your noses at inferior team-mates, some of whom were around while you happened to be winning a belt full of titles, including the Champions League, because maybe the ball isn't always quite arriving how you would prefer?
Do you fill in some of the time with a bit of whoring and boozing, the odd urination in the street and the occasional purchase of a £200 packet of fags, and then obscenely question the right of England fans, who have just travelled to the southern tip of Africa, to complain after seeing you put in a World Cup performance that would have scandalised any professional at any level?
Surely, a little loyalty can be squeezed into the rushing time, Keano?
Not the kissing of the jersey variety, but something that speaks a little more deeply of an understanding of the faith and the belief that a gnarled old warrior like Fergie, admittedly not in the end your or a lot of other's people's cup of tea, has invested in your progress through the game.
Ferguson could not suppress a smile when he was asked about Rooney's worries over a lack of ambition at Old Trafford.
The financial restraints of the Glazer ownership might be a difficulty, of course, but 27 trophies is not the sideboard display of a man likely to abandon easily the greatest motivation of his life, the urge to win, and keep on winning.
Yes, it's a fleeting time in football, but Rooney, no more than Keane, can be said to be operating in a butcher's shop.
He did not lack support when he came back from South Africa -- the pariah of a discredited national team -- when Ferguson declared that maybe too much had been expected of the great player who would soon be dragged by his own deeds into what, in the real world at least, would be a personal crisis of life-changing potential. Yes, Ferguson would cover for Rooney -- right up to the point when he was told he just couldn't meet his price.
Certainly the playing life is brief, but never before has it been so guaranteed to provide a life-time's security.
Nobby Stiles left Old Trafford with shattered knees and a perilous bank account after 14 brilliant years, during which he won the European and World Cups in the decade after he had left Old Trafford weeping at the news of Munich and sat and rocked in his grief in an empty church in his native Collyhurst.
Stiles knew about loyalty and honour and ambition all right, he breathed it in every day of his life, and this month -- isn't it odd -- he is selling his World Cup medal out of necessity and for how much? One estimate is £150,000 -- somewhat less than the weekly wage Rooney has so brusquely rejected.
So, if we accept that the Keane philosophy is ingrained now in the minds of many leading professionals, what can any club and their supporters expect of a player equipped with Rooney's antennae?
It is just a matter of hoping that the big spender will spend a little time with them.
It is true, of course, that we have not lacked a degree of preparation for the Rooney convulsion.
It was only weeks ago that Javier Mascherano pronounced himself emotionally unfit to perform for his employers Liverpool, who were fighting for their lives, even their respectability, in a new and hazardous season, at Manchester City.
Sol Campbell enraged Spurs followers when he said he was going to Arsenal simply out of career ambition and not the prospect of a much fatter contract.
No, Rooney hasn't exactly ambushed us with the concept of looking after No 1, no more than Keane with a selective memory, which blots out the number of times he received the support of Ferguson, even to the point of being bailed out of a Manchester police cell one night.
But then maybe no-one has perhaps ever done it quite so dismissively. For one thing at least is certain. Whoever gets Wayne Rooney should not exhaust the ceremonials of hello and goodbye.