Friday 20 April 2018

Dion Fanning: Wrestling with their emotions in bout of summer speculation

Dion Fanning

Wayne Rooney was "angry and confused" following David Moyes' ambivalent comments about the player last weekend. As this story took off, some pointed out there wasn't much to be angry or confused about but it was generally agreed that being angry and confused was a bad thing for Wayne Rooney.

Perhaps for Wayne Rooney the man it may well be a bad thing to be angry and confused, especially all the time, but for Wayne Rooney the footballer, it may be a very good thing if he can be angry and confused or at least angry. At the right time.

Anger, certainly, is not his enemy. In 2010, he swore in an angry and confused fashion at the camera following England's draw with Algeria and it could be said that the overwhelming confluence of emotions on that occasion was too much for him.

He returned to England to desperate stories about his private life and soon was voicing his frustration about his career at Old Trafford and in those moments he seemed angry and confused, with confusion perhaps having the greater say, only behind that of his agent.

Rooney has always seemed like one of those people who is at his best dealing with only one emotion at a time. For example, he can be tired or he can be emotional but add the two together and next thing you know he's missing training and his fitness is being questioned.

Rooney has, in recent times, seemed to have settled for a slightly complacent simmering resentment. He is, as he likes to say, the Big Man but he has spent the last few years retreating into a position where the Big Man sits in a wicker chair, stewing when he spots any signs that he is not the Big Man.

Last season, the Big Man was left out of the team to play Real Madrid and the Big Man didn't like that. Rooney might once have decided to respond with ferocity on the field but now things have changed.

So he reacted with anger and confusion to David Moyes' line that he would be needed if anything happened to Robin van Persie. It has been pointed out that Moyes said many other things, but United's executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward was also said to have angered Rooney by stating they weren't looking to renew any contracts this summer.

At least this didn't confuse Rooney. He can't have expected to be offered a new contract, even if, as the Big Man, he can't have expected to be told publicly that he wouldn't be getting one and he'd be embarking on a year-long trial instead.

David Moyes' intentions are hard to understand. He has begun his time as Manchester United manager with a certain suburban propriety, revealing his anxiety about wearing jeans when he had to go over to Alex Ferguson's house, sounding like a junior accountant fussing about what exactly constitutes "smart casual" when invited to a barbecue at his boss's house.

On his first day in the job, Moyes promised he wouldn't talk about players at other clubs. Last week, he held to that line before he confirmed that United had made a bid for Cesc Fabregas, perhaps again showing some frustration at the constant demand for information at Manchester United which he has, for now, decided to deal with by providing information. Moyes' handling of Rooney will define his early months as United manager and it's hard to know what he wants.

For Mourinho, there are a number of attractions in buying Rooney. If he can sign an angry Wayne Rooney and stop him becoming angry and confused, he will have a potent player on his hands.

Mourinho, too, looks always to control the dressing room and Rooney would fit in naturally with the group at Chelsea who are especially happy that he has returned.

Chelsea have insisted, too, that Juan Mata was not offered to United as part of their bid for Rooney, but Mourinho's words about Mata have a different feel to his words about the men who have impressed him so much, training like "animals".

Last week, Mourinho spent some time talking about Michael Essien and they fell back into their old routine with the manager referring to him as his son and Essien calling him "daddy", terms of endearment which must make those listening feel uncomfortable as if a couple start referring to each other as "my sweet little babykins" during, say, a parent-teacher evening.

His words about Mata were cooler as he looked forward to working with him and finding out what he can do, pointing out that there is plenty of competition for the number ten role.

Mourinho's willingness to pursue Rooney of Manchester United as if he was merely pursuing a player of any other club also indicates a change in the hierarchy which is simply that there is no hierarchy any more.

Moyes might say the same things as Alex Ferguson but they don't sound the same and they don't cause the same reaction.

There may have been a time when United could alienate Rooney and decide where he would go next but those days have probably gone.

Transfer sagas are WWE bouts. We must go along with the pretence that there is some element of chance in this struggle, and there is. A wrestler might accidentally split his head open in a choreographed fall, upsetting the pre-determined result, but there is usually a pre-determined result. A transfer involving Rooney is like Summer Slam. It doesn't matter if the outcome is already known, what matters is the violence produced in achieving it.

If Rooney and Chelsea want Rooney to be at Chelsea next season then it will probably happen unless there is some unforeseen accident.

Mourinho will gain a player, no longer angry and confused but possibly still angry and Mourinho may also highlight some vulnerability at Manchester United. Like Mourinho, Rooney will have something to prove to Manchester United. Happiness is an irrelevance. Anger is Wayne Rooney's friend.

dfanning@independent.ie

Irish Independent

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