Sunday 25 February 2018

History not on the side of stars who challenge United supremo


Mark Ogden

WAYNE ROONEY was a prodigious boxer during his youth, so ought to know the perils of allowing supreme confidence to lead him into afight he cannot win.

Rooney’s motivation for challenging Alex Ferguson, by contradicting the Manchester United manager’s claims about his fitness, is something only he can disclose, but he is in danger of missing the warning signs if he believes his defiance will lead to Ferguson changing.

Since lurid allegations of Rooney sleeping with prostitutes emerged, Ferguson’s handling of the striker has been accompanied by a suspicion that he had dropped him as punishment for allowing United’s name to be tarnished. Ferguson’s ruthless streak has led to him dropping or even dispensing with star players on numerous occasions and, although Rooney is the stellar name of this United squad, he is no more iconic than Roy Keane, David Beckham or Ruud van Nistelrooy were when they felt their manager’s wrath.

Rooney is simply receiving the same ‘tough love’ applied to many of his illustrious predecessors. The axe has fallen, but Ferguson has protected his player in public by alluding to injury and fears of abuse from the terraces.

He has even spoken of his concerns for Rooney being “exhausted” by the celebrity spotlight, yet Rooney appears to have interpreted Ferguson’s public compassion as condemnation. By questioning his manager, Rooney has given a further example of how his judgment has deserted him.

On the pitch, Rooney is missing chances and has lost his touch. Off it, he seems to have fallen into the trap of believing himself untouchable.

Ferguson is unlikely to react by subjecting Rooney to the infamous ‘hairdryer’ treatment but will expect his striker to draw a line under the affair by producing a performance in keeping with his bullish talk against West Brom on Saturday.

Anything less and Rooney will have given Ferguson ample ammunition to deliver some home truths.

The pair’s relationship is not broken, but Ferguson will expect a re-alignment of Rooney’s perspective of the player/manager dynamic.

But with talks still in first gear over a new contract aimed at replacing the final 21 months of Rooney’s present deal, a rift cannot be allowed if United are to retain their top asset.

The coming month is likely to be crucial in assessing whether Rooney’s public defiance has put him at a crossroads in his relationship with Ferguson.

For now, Rooney simply has to land his blows on the pitch rather than off it. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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