Thursday 14 December 2017

Wayne’s world a better place as he speaks from heart

Ian Herbert

It does not come easy to Wayne Rooney, all this self-analysis.

There is a nervous little laugh when it is put to him, as he makes to leave Schalke's ground late on Tuesday night, that he is now repaying Manchester United's fans for so nearly betraying them.

The same embarrassment is there in his voice when it is suggested that the second half of this season is turning out rather better than the first. And the written word simply can't convey how obvious it is that Rooney was not forced to stand in the depths of a stadium, a carton of coffee in his hand, and say: "I'm a lot happier in my life. It's almost been like having to settle down again."

Such are the conversations which have become a part of his life in the past six months, though. Rooney has been on a long, unfinished road in search of redemption from United's fans ever since the October night when he declared, through a press statement issued two hours and 10 minutes before United's Champions League tie with Bursaspor, that he doubted the club and might leave.

"Colleen forgave you Wayne, we won't," read one of the banners raised that evening. "Who's the whore now, Wayne?" was another. Rooney seems to be grasping for any new way to apologise now. His rhetorical question in the depths of the Veltins Arena -- "you know, when you look at it now; how wrong was I!" -- was so untypically him that you half imagined he had been practising it in front of the mirror back in Prestbury.

This has only been a part of the journey back, though. The past six months have also purposefully taken us into Wayne's world, a process in which his arrival on Twitter last Saturday is just another contributory part. The creation of @wazzaroon08 is not as orchestrated as it seems.

Rooney's agent Paul Stretford is understood to have doubted the wisdom of his client delivering his impressions, not unreasonably believing that this could be a disaster waiting to happen. Rooney's wife, Coleen, and Rio Ferdinand are the ones who have encouraged him. But it is another way of demonstrating where Rooney's soul lies.

The effect has been so good because it has seemed so uncalculating. Ferdinand's tweeting has helped construct a sharp commercial image you feel will serve him when he has retired. Cristiano Ronaldo's reads like something his PR man has typed.

Rooney's is so homespun that you knew it could only have been him, speaking from his room at Essen's Atlantic Congress hotel on Monday evening, telling us that he is listening to the Beatles and that no track is better than 'I Wanna Hold your Hand.'

The picture has been building in other ways. The 25-year-old's interview with United's in-house TV station on New Year's Eve was an extraordinarily detailed insight into his religiosity, pre-match prayers in the physio's room and the iPod he wears in the dressing room because Patrice Evra's taste for R&B and reggae differs from his own (Susan Boyle is a preference, with a love of Perry Como and Frankie Valli passed on by his grandfather).

Gradually, the indignant individual who initially dismissed some of the reporting of his transfer talks as "a load of rubbish" has gravitated into the most absorbing source of mixed zone conversation. The first apology came after United's win on such an occasion -- November 24 after the 1-0 win at Rangers -- a month after Ferguson had promised it.

"Everyone keeps saying that I haven't said sorry and, if that is the case, then I apologise for my side of things," Rooney said, still midly chippy. By March 15, the tone was far warmer. "Unless I'm ever not wanted then I'll be staying here, for sure."

In Gelsenkirchen on Tuesday night, he seemed to want to move on and there was evidence to suggest that his manager has too. Ferguson's first known description of Rooney as 'Wazza' in a pre-match interview while in Germany hinted that things have softened. So, too, the pair's high jinks on the Gelsenkirchen pitch on Monday night, Rooney's joke sending an explosion of laughter through the squad and Ferguson then holding him in a headlock.

It was a mixed zone many moons removed from the one on that grim night against Bursaspor. The one player who spoke out against Rooney that evening was Patrice Evra and you imagine that some kind of reckoning has been needed with him. Evra hurriedly shuffled on as Rooney moved in to talk in the Schalke mixed zone late on Tuesday night, but not before conveying an opinion.

"Sometimes in your life you have some problems but now you see he just gives something back," the Frenchman said. "Maybe this is his way to say sorry to the fans." (© Independent News Service)

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