Today Alex Ferguson moved to reassure everyone that Wayne Rooney will still be at Manchester United next season, so let me tell you before anybody else does—Twitter, Facebook and Real World aside—that Paris Saint Germain will be lucky to have him. Yes, that’s right, at United, he’s a goner, of that there can be little doubt. He probably wasn’t left out of their lineup against Real Madrid on Tuesday to prove a point, but if anything that makes his situation at the club more hopeless: nobody at Manchester United is out to get Wayne Rooney; it’s more that nobody at Manchester United cares about Wayne Rooney. And for Wayne Rooney that must be quite hard to hear, because he is Wayne Rooney.
But if Wayne is having problems—deep, psychological problems: feelings of rejection, which in turn lead to feelings of isolation, which lead to feelings of hate, which lead to anger, which, of course, leads to the dark side—with coming to terms with his relegation to a role as Danny Welbeck’s understudy, superfluous even as a bench warmer now that heated seats are the norm, then perhaps the solution is to be found in how he approaches this thing. There are positives to be grasped even from the absolute worst situations, after all. I’m here to help, Wayne.
Obviously you could understand why he might be feeling negative. Sports writers have responded to United’s rejection of Wayne with a rejection of their own: by pointing out what a disappointment his career has been after early hype (produced by them). They’ve all gone with the ‘I’m not racist, but…’ style of argument, explaining that ‘it’s ridiculous to call someone who’s contributed heavily to four Premier League titles and a Champions League win a failure, but…’ he’s still a failure. That kind of negativity could push anyone into misery. Then there are the fans: the Manchester United Supporters Trust used the day after he was left out against Real to say that it would “probably be the right decision” to let him leave in the summer. Not so much kicking a man when he’s down as kicking a man when he’s just been dropped from the team to play against Real Madrid.
But amongst all that, there are indeed positives, or at least positive ways to interpret negatives. Take, for instance, the fact that nobody will ever take away the trophies he won with United and the contributions Wayne made to winning those trophies: no amount of ‘he’s won loads, but…’s can rewrite history so that those didn’t happen. He’s had a successful career. Okay, it does look as though it might be tapering off a little now, and perhaps the personal peaks could have been higher, but success is relative. Apart from me, everyone reading this will eventually have to accept being below Danny Welbeck in the Manchester United pecking order, and that’s without even the consolation of winning all of those titles. Personally, I’ve become so relaxed with success as a relative concept, I’ve begun to count getting out of bed as worthy of a pat on the back—I often reward myself by going back to bed. I’m in bed right now.
For Wayne, it might also be useful to disregard the idea of unrealized potential. Potential which is never reached is a highly spurious concept: ‘He had great feet but he didn’t have the right attitude’? Then he didn’t not achieve his potential; he reached whatever peaks that combination of good feet and bad head allowed for—he’d have to be another person in another reality for that to be different, and we don’t have access to that other reality. Yet. ‘He was perhaps the foremost writing talent of his generation but he drowned in a puddle of Tizer before he was 22’? Then that was what his potential allowed for; he was never going to do any different. Plus, he probably died doing what he loved.
You can see where this is going. Wayne Rooney need not be miserable. Misery is ostensibly a state of mind, not a set of circumstances. Unless you’re telling me that I’m wasting my life, sitting in a room, content—or even happy—to stare at myself in the mirror all day every day?
Maybe Wayne simply needs to make some other plans. Maybe it’s useful that he considers his options. For a man who isn’t that arsed about playing the best he possibly could have by indulging in pork pies and cigarettes, maybe he could try this: he could be a simply very good footballer for Paris Saint Germain or Real Madrid, and continue his life as if football was his job. He could do his job to the satisfaction of most people, and just go about his business without making too much eye contact in the shops and learning enough French or Spanish in order to say sorry when he accidentally makes eye contact with someone, all the while still earning £250,000 a week. Maybe he doesn’t care, or maybe he simply cares just enough.
I have sympathy for Wayne Rooney. Being told that Wayne Rooney is a failure when you are Wayne Rooney must be particularly hard. But he can get through this.
Friday Theo Walcott update
Theo Walcott has not played yet this week. His strongest performance to date this season.