October 20th 2010 mid afternoon, just after dinner time- or lunch if you’re a bit southern will go down in history as a JFK-type ‘where were you when you heard the news’ type moment for all United fans.
It was a real ‘say it ain’t so’ event, when Sir Alex Ferguson told the world what some had expected, many had doubted and nearly all could not believe: Wayne Rooney didn’t want to be Manchester United player anymore.
I myself was working for a Manchester radio station busy stood in the rain asking members of the public what they thought of the imminent budget cuts. I got the news from a delighted scouse mate who phoned me with the news.
Not wanting to play into my -only- scouse mate’s hands I responded with the following series of lies:
“He’s overrated anyway, he’s been sh*t for months, I think it’s actually a good thing ‘cos we could use the money to buy 3 or 4 much needed players.” I was that convincing, I almost believed myself.
As I stood in the Mancunian rain, like thousands of other United fans, a whole host of thoughts were running through my head.
“Will he really leave? Will he go to the bitters? Will he be gone by January? When will it ever stop raining?!”
A call from the office ordered me to Old Trafford to ask fans around the ground for their opinions. A piece of cake I thought, until I was given one final stipulation- “try and get Mancunians, we need some Manc voices.”
Now despite the myth that’s often perpetrated by nearly all City fans, the one that seems to have become law to anyone from outside Manchester. All Mancunians do not support City, there are plenty of United fans in Manchester, in fact there’s hundreds of thousands. Finding a Mancunian at the United Megastore at 3pm on a Tuesday afternoon is fairly difficult, a bit like finding a scouser in full time employment- not unheard of, just extremely rare.
I arrived at the ground and was struck by the fact that the number of reporters actually outnumbered the amount of fans or passers-by. Sky Sports, were there along with an assortment of national and local journalists.
I asked one reporter how it was going? Had he managed to speak to many people?
“Mainly Irish and foreigners.” He said, with a look of disappointment.
“Any Mancunians?” I asked hopefully.
“Not one.” He replied inevitably.
I decided to interview whatever fans I could get my hands on feeling that at least some voices were better than none. There were one or two people going from interview to interview, as though they were on the red carpet at the oscars, basking in their fifteen minutes.
I grabbed the nearest person who didn’t have a camera stuck in his face. My question was simple “What reaction do you think Rooney will get the next time he plays for United?”
Over the next two hours I spoke to about twenty fans, some were even Mancunian, and the responses varied from “we’ll get behind him as always” to “He’ll get booed as soon as his name’s mentioned.”
Part of the problem was everyone still seemed unsure of Wazza’s motives and more importantly his destination.
One bloke stuck his head out of the car as I was interveiwing someone and shouted “f*ck City!” Although I was annoyed I had to start again, I couldn’t help but agree.
If Wayne Rooney did the unthinkable and went to the noisy neighbours, then it would be a disaster for both United and the striker himself.
The reason it would be a disaster for United is that despite his poor run of from Rooney is still one of the world’s top players. He’s in that exclusive club that includes the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Didier Drogba.
A player who on his day can carry an entire team and crucify any defence in the world. If United lost him to City then I think its safe to assume the balance of power in Manchester would shift.
Losing Carlos Tevez to them was one thing as despite his blistering from since he arrived at Eastlands, Tevez was only in and out of the United line-up, as much a substitute as he was a starter. Tevez was a good player for United of that there can be little doubt, but he wasn’t a Rooney. The scouse striker almost single-handedly carried United to the title last season and if it wasn’t for his injury against Bayern Munich- that now seems to have somehow altered the whole course of his career- who knows what could have been acheived.
Put Rooney in City’s team and not only will United lose arguably their most gifted player but City will finally get that true member of the elite that they’ve been missing.
The reasons it would be a disaster for Rooney, are that not only will he never be able to walk through the streets of Manchester without receiving some form of verbal abuse, his reputation will be one of the ultimate Judas, but more importantly, he will be leaving a team that was built around him, a club that loved him and fans who adored him.
Other players have left United in the past and lived to regret it, as one fan ironically stood next to the United Trinity statue said to me yesterday: “In a few years time, Rooney should sit down with the likes of Scholes and Giggs and compare medals, and I bet he wont have as many.” Rooney leaving United is his right but the least he could do for the fans is not throw it all back in their face by leaving for a few quid more to one of their arch-rivals.
However, going back to my original point, as many fans said to me yesterday, they’re already willing to give Rooney abuse. This though could be music to Manchester City’s ears, if Rooney wants the ultimate reason to join City, then United fans making his time at Old Trafford a living hell, could just be enough to make him head to Eastlands.
If there’s any glimmer of hope of convincing him to stay then the fans need to show him why the likes of Giggs and Scholes have stuck around for their entire careers. Getting behind Rooney and proving that the fans still love him could well make the young striker change his mind, after all a few months ago he seemed set to stay at United for life, there’s always the chance he could change it back.
Even if it doesn’t change his mind back, it will still show Rooney and the rest of the world that the one thing you can never accuse United fans of is not having a bit of class.
It may be difficult for some fans to chant his name, knowing that he could be wearing bitter blue one day, but I for one will be giving him the same support I give any United player. It may stick in my throat a little but the ‘White Pele’ hasn’t lost all the Old Trafford faithful just yet.