Pundits often describe Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, as a “traditionalist” with old-school values.
Naively, I always assumed this meant the old-school values of his tough upbringing around the shipyards of Glasgow: hard work, cold baths, nae greetin’ (no crying) and the resolution of personal grievances by the application of swift and explosive violence.
The latest chapter of his ongoing saga with Wayne Rooney, his star striker, however, sees Sir Alex acting more like a 19th century British aristocrat whose headstrong son has disgraced the family name. Namely, he has banished him to the New World.
Rooney has been packed off to Beaverton, a distant outpost in the Americas, after placing a scoundrel’s tick in all three Gs of caddish behaviour: greed, gambling and gadding about with ladies of the night.
According to the rules of literature, in Beaverton he must languish for at least a decade until either making his own fortune in trade or being gored by a buffalo and dying of gangrene.
However, this being boring old reality, Rooney’s banishment will last only until this Saturday. At a speculated wage of more than £200,000-per-week (Dh1.19 million), one can only afford to freeze him out for so long.
The official reason for sending him away is, as always, “injury”. Rooney has a poorly ankle, you see, which would apparently benefit from yet another lengthy plane journey to distant shores (he has just returned to the UK after a week-long break in Dubai).
This time, the destination is the Beaverton-based headquarters of the sportswear giant Nike, which sponsors Manchester United.
According to Mike Phelan, United’s assistant manager, the decision to send Rooney away was based on these factors: a change of scenery, the chance to use the Nikeworld facilities, and also “to take him out of the spotlight a little bit and get him concentrated”.
This reasoning seems bizarre.
Firstly, the change of scenery concept is dubious. Rooney will simply swap one training centre for another, and his luxury home for a luxury hotel room. Big deal.
This is the same Wayne Rooney, remember, who felt hopelessly bored while staying in the stunning wilds of South Africa during the World Cup.
Somehow, I doubt Oregon has much more to offer, scenery-wise.
Secondly, why does he need to use Nike’s facilities, which Phelan himself describes as “definitely on a par to what we’ve got here”? Why travel to the Pacific coast for something you already have down the road?
As for taking him out of the spotlight, singling him out for a transatlantic voyage of shame does precisely the opposite.
The perfect tonic to concentrate Rooney’s mind on to football would surely have been this Wednesday’s match at Manchester City. What a cathartic opportunity for the young scoundrel to reverse the damage he had inflicted on the family name by notching up another of the Gs for which he is famous: a goal.
But instead of menacing Eastlands in his red shirt – a mouth-watering prospect for partisans and neutrals alike, considering recent events – he will be on an exercise bike in Oregon.
It is so disappointing, so baffling, that the cynic in me is starting to believe that Rooney was actually sent State-side to placate the suits at Nike, who perhaps wanted a PR boost after weeks of negative publicity.
But surely Sir Alex, who released a statement praising Nike’s “fantastic facilities”, would not take such a craven decision. He is, after all, a traditionalist.
Would rivals handle an armed hold-up as cooly as Button?
Formula One racing driver Jenson Button was “unruffled” by an attempted car-jacking in Brazil, according to reports.
Of course he was unruffled. Button could not be ruffled if he tried. He is so unruffleable, he should be sponsored by Corby Trouser Press.
With his trademark modesty, the McLaren-Mercedes man shrugged off concerns for his mental state following the incident, which took place after a lousy day at the office (he had just claimed 11th place on the grid for yesterday’s Brazilian Grand Prix).
Instead he praised the police driver who managed to ram through a Sao Paulo traffic jam to get them to safety, and pointed out that he was not the first person in the F1 family to experience such an incident. Just the most famous.
The reaction was as elegant and classy as his driving.
So how, I wonder, would other drivers have handled the same experience? Red Bull-Renault’s’s Mark Webber would have probably complained that his security arrangements were not as good as those of his teammate Sebastian Vettel. “Hey, how come Seb gets a limo with bulletproof glass and inch-thick armour, when all you’ve given me is a subway ticket and a Sao Paulo map?”
Button’s teammate, Lewis Hamilton, would have pushed the police driver out of his seat and taken the wheel himself. We all know how he likes to show off his wheel-spinning skills in rush-hour traffic.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso would have simply sat in the stricken car looking cool as a cucumber, knowing that Felipe Massa is always ready to take a bullet for him.
As for Michael Schumacher, it is hard to know how he would deal with armed bandits. Just that whatever he did, he would somehow come out of it looking like the bad guy.