Rooney: October Revolution a mistake
Wayne Rooney yesterday admitted that he realises the enormity of what he almost threw away by threatening to leave Manchester United, and reflected that the proximity to a Premier League and Champions League double has vindicated his decision to stay.
"When you look at it now, how wrong was I!" Rooney said in the aftermath of the overwhelming 2-0 victory in Schalke which has all but affirmed United as Champions League finalists for Wembley. "We are one step closer now to the final and with the league we are in a very strong position. I am 100pc committed to this club."
Rooney's road to redemption in the eyes of those United fans who see his 'October revolution' at Old Trafford as a means of securing a better contract is by no means completed, but his 13 goals in 28 games have seen him deliver on the promise to repay them through his performances.
"I understood that I made a mistake. I admitted that and I apologised for that and moved on and I have wanted to try and prove myself again to the Manchester United fans," Rooney said.
"It's been a lot different (in the second half of the season). I am a lot happier in my life and happier with the way I'm playing. I'm delighted with my form at the minute."
He admitted that he did not dream of United's current position when he said on October 20 that he doubted the "continued ability of the club to attract the top players in the world" and "win trophies".
Those words angered left-back Patrice Evra, who said "if one player does not trust the other players, that player should not play" and the French defender reflected again after Tuesday's win in Germany on how Rooney's comment had brought "big trouble -- there was a lot of trouble for Man United".
But Evra said that the undeniable spirit which has seen United rescue 13 points in the last seven minutes of league matches this season has enable them to rise from that desperately low point.
Manager Alex Ferguson has always sensed that the Rooney contract affair could draw the players closer.
"It could have exactly the galvanising effect we need, that pulls everyone together," he said, back in November.
Evra added: "When we were in that bad position we still believed we could win the league. Manchester United always believe until the end. How many goals do we score in the last minute? That's the right spirit. We believe we can win the title."
What no-one -- least of all Rooney -- appreciated at that stage was precisely what value Javier Hernandez was about to bring to the club.
On October 20, he had started only four games for the club and scored just twice. Against Schalke, the partnership with Rooney looked more irresistible than ever.
Discussing the partnership -- and his own new role as an old-fashioned No 10 operating behind the Mexican -- in detail for the first time, Rooney said it was not something he had discussed with Ferguson in advance.
"I saw and understood 'Chicharito' and the way he plays and I knew if I was playing up front with him I would have to change and maybe play a bit deeper and try and link the play a bit," Rooney said.
"It has worked for us. He's been a fantastic signing and has scored a lot of goals -- important goals as well -- and I'm enjoying getting on the ball and linking play and getting a few goals from there as well.
"Sometimes when you play up front on your own your not really in the game as much, you're sort of waiting for your opportunity to score.
"When you play in the (No 10) position, you're always involved. You can get on the ball and create and score goals. As a footballer you enjoy that."
Though this United squad have been characterised as an inferior one to those who reached the 2008 and '09 finals, Rooney believes they have a match situation superiority.
"I think we are controlling games a lot better than we probably were in the lead-up to those two finals," he said. "Then we were about counter-attacking and a lot of pace and now I think we are controlling games a lot more and having a lot more possession.
"You see the experience that the likes of myself and a lot of the players have got to help us get through games.
"We were just beaten by a better team (in '09, against Barcelona). They were a lot better than us on the night and deserved the victory. To get back to a final, if we can do that, so soon after that one in Rome would be a great achievement for us."
Evra ended his discussion of Rooney abruptly, as the striker loomed into view behind him in the Schalke mixed zone, but the Frenchman clearly believes Rooney should be granted redemption.
"Sometimes in your life you have some problems," Evra said. "But Wayne is a professional and now you see he just gives back, maybe (to say) sorry to the fans maybe for what he said in the beginning. That's at an end now -- it's over. Now let's look forward to the future. We look forward to winning more trophies." (© Independent News Service)