So Now The Mutineer Wants To Be Captain

By acquiescing to Rooney's demands, Moyes would paint himself to be weak and the club to be rudderless. It's time to put the striker in his place, even if that means selling him...

Last Updated: 27/01/14 at 12:21 Post Comment

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Former US president Lyndon Johnson once said of strained political relations that it is better to have dissidents inside the tent pissing out, rather than outside the tent pissing in. As Manchester United wring another of Wayne Rooney's leaks out of the guy ropes on Monday, they might disagree.

The latest reports are nothing short of embarrassing for the champions. Despite his continued disaffection, Rooney has them bent over a barrel yet again. A £300,000-a-week contract, influence over transfers and the club captaincy are among his purported demands - the latter is one of the most obscene suggestions ever to be reportedly raised during contract negotiations. Let's not forget that this is a player who has asked to leave twice.

When Sir Alex Ferguson revealed Rooney's latest request at the end of last season, he insisted that he would not be sold. It seemed strange that the striker's punishment for another episode of apostasy was to remain tied to United - as though Ferguson was focused more on what was worse for Rooney than good for the club - and one wonders if the former manager still feels the same now the mutineer wishes to be captain.

Doubts over Rooney's future left a stain on the celebrations of Ferguson's farewell in May and they have continued to consume the champions long into David Moyes' first season in charge. Many are happy to buy into Paul Stretford's spell that Rooney is worth the fuss but, after a stirring start to the campaign, he has scored only six times in his last 17 matches. It's a regression to the mean for a purple-patch player whose only constant is the disintegration of his fitness and attitude.

United simply cannot rely on Rooney anymore, either on the pitch or in the dressing room. It is a lesson that Ferguson should have learned long before his retirement, although he claimed at his October book launch: "Do you think I would drop Wayne Rooney if he was playing the way he is now? Absolutely no way."

However, is form such an issue for other star players who can hope to be paid £300,000 a week? Does Eden Hazard always 'need a game' to reach peak fitness? Would Manchester City drop Sergio Aguero against Barcelona because of doubts over what he offers the team? The thought is ridiculous, and yet both applied to Rooney in Ferguson's final year.

Beyond those examples is the time Rooney was fined and dropped for breaking club discipline in the 2011/12 season, which led to him missing the 3-2 defeat to Blackburn that could be claimed to have cost United the title. After complaining that the club weren't doing enough to sign star names in 2010 and requesting a transfer, last year he moaned about being played out of position following Robin van Persie's arrival. Just how much are United prepared to accept?

Rooney is a brilliant player when form and fitness combine, but that necessary alchemy will become even more infrequent over the duration of a new four-year contract. With Juan Mata joining to compete for the No.10 role in United's starting XI, Rooney's influence should be on the wane. Instead he is only becoming more powerful.

By acquiescing to the striker's demands, Moyes would paint himself to be weak and the club to be rudderless. Mata's signing proves that United can still compete in the transfer market in this new era of uncertainty, and that should be as much encouragement as anything to give Rooney short shrift.

Matt Stanger - he's on the Twitter.

Wayne Rooney is capable of being world class. At the moment I would put Ronaldo, Messi, Suarez and Aguero ahead of him, but not many more. His all round game exceeds that of most other forwards and his over all contribution is exceptional from week to week. In any case, arguing about whether he is world class is pointless. It is 100% subjective and entirely down to personal opinion. In the last 12 months we've seen Messi, Neymar, Xavi, Mourinho and Zlatan all praise him for being a top class player. I'd take their word over your casual fan every day.
- HarryBoulton

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