Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sir Alex Ferguson goes public on Wayne Rooney's desire to leave.

Sir Alex Ferguson is claiming to be puzzled as to why Wayne Rooney would contemplate leaving one of the most successful football clubs in the world, especially when that club had treated him so very well.

Alex Ferguson looked down at his notes, leaned forward in his chair and, grim-faced, stared out at his audience. Then the words started to come. Wayne Rooney, he said, had told Manchester United he wanted to leave. It was all true; the most prodigiously gifted footballer of his generation wanted to leave the biggest club in England, and the look on Ferguson's face told us he was as bewildered as anyone. "I just can't understand it," he said, and rarely has this hard, sometimes ogreish man looked so human.

There were times, at today's extraordinary press conference, when Ferguson remembered who he was: straight-backed, defiant, holding eye contact, he promised that his club would recover "because that's Manchester United". But there was plenty of raw emotion. Rooney, he said, was "adamant" he wanted nothing more to do with the club of Charlton, Best and Law. Ferguson was "dumbfounded".

At a time when Manchester City are offering to make Rooney the best paid player in the country, despite the fact that he hasn't scored a goal - other than a penalty - since March, is all the reasoning you need.

Some players aren't motivated by success, which Rooney would surely have more chance of if he stayed where he is, but are, rather, motivated entirely by cash. It always puzzles me that someone with so much wealth as Rooney would throw everything away simply to have even more cash, but some people simply are that shallow.

For Ferguson, a man whose autobiography finishes with the words "loyalty has been the anchor of my life", there was the clear sense of being personally let down. "We have done everything we possibly can to help Wayne Rooney, any time he has been in trouble. I don't know how many times we have helped him in terms of his private life."

That was a reference to the media storm over Rooney's alleged fondness for paying for sex. Rooney, we are told, does not think he has had enough support over it. Or it could be he knows City have the money these days. Either way, it made for an astonishing day at Old Trafford, all without a ball being kicked.

It's a very rare day when one finds oneself feeling sorry for Sir Alex Ferguson, but yesterday was one of those days. One could feel him grasping to understand the notion that anyone could reject all that he is offering in terms of a footballing career simply to kneel in front of the God of pure hard cash.

And, for all the reasoning Rooney will offer in the weeks to come, it's hard not to conclude that this is a young man who thinks that the £30 million he already possesses is simply not enough for him to live on.

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