x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

United showing break-up theatre can be so compelling

Sir Alex Ferguson's good-sized list of jettisoned divas at Manchester United could be ready for a new entry - Wayne Rooney.

Maybe Wayne Rooney could provide us with an unprecedented peek into Sir Alex Ferguson’s kingdom should he seek pastures new and get the writing pen out once again.
Maybe Wayne Rooney could provide us with an unprecedented peek into Sir Alex Ferguson’s kingdom should he seek pastures new and get the writing pen out once again.

How pessimistic we were. So many of us earthlings saw the Wayne Rooney-Manchester United marriage as a constant that would hum reliably into eternity.

Ignoring history and science and their glaring petri-dish lessons about player egos mixing with managerial egos, we saw Rooney in red for season upon season upon season until his last hair fell out and Old Trafford feted him on some teary day in the early 2020s.

Now before us lies a potential smorgasbord, the future brimming with the kind of preposterous prospects that relieve tedium and keep the world chattering.

Just gaze at the horizon and savour.

If Rooney does leave Manchester United, it might help answer a beguiling question that transcends sport: can American businessmen, who did so much to screw up the global economy with their own Ponzi-scheme economy at home, actually screw up both Liverpool and Manchester United within one decade?

Can they prove they had the stuff to use their wild-west debt and astonishing clownishness to imperil the two grandest titans of English football? Can they really?

Even in the cup-filled years since the Glazer family takeover in 2005, you always could find Manchester United fans fretting over the Glazers's debts. These earnest types worried softly even through the spring of 2007 (league title) and the spring of 2008 (league title, Champions League title) and the spring of 2009 (league title, Champions League runner-up).

Their concern for the distant future did not so much froth as simmer, and next to Liverpool they provided the quieter of the two test cases of the English discomfort with debt ramming against the American comfort with debt. If it develops that Cristiano Ronaldo and Rooney exit within 19 months and the landscape remains, bereft of starshine, they could face undesired vindication.

The idea of transfer money used to service debts could depress even Dolly Parton.

If Rooney does leave Manchester United, he could write another book as he did after he left Everton. The follow-up to My Life So Far, published at 20 in 2006, could be "My Life So So Far".

Given the long-memory prickliness Rooney flashed with the pen back then, maybe he could provide an unprecedented peek into Sir Alex Ferguson's kingdom. Of course, he did wind up slandering David Moyes, the Everton manager, by claiming Moyes leaked to the gloriously titled Liverpool Echo. And he did wind up getting sued by Moyes. And he did wind up losing in court and apologising and costing his publisher an undisclosed sum.

You know, the minor details.

Still, Ferguson v Rooney in court certainly would make a day on Earth decidedly less mundane, and it wouldn't be the first time Ferguson lamented an autobiography or other extra-curricular.

His good-sized list of jettisoned divas includes Jaap Stam, whose autobiography rankled Ferguson in 2001, and David Beckham, whom Ferguson found too indulgent to his celebrity trappings, with the evidence in Ferguson's favour downright naked.

If Rooney does leave Manchester United, he could always remain in Manchester and wear the sky blue of Manchester City. That alone would make it worth crawling out from under a blanket in the morning.

If Rooney does leave Manchester United, he could always go to Real Madrid. That could solve the empirical question of whether having Kaka and Rooney and Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho et al in one general area can cause that general area to combust.

And if Rooney does leave Manchester United, it would provide Ferguson with a chance at another incarnation with the astronomical debt as a backdrop. Could he forge on just as he has forged on before?

After all, scoring goals has not been United's problem in a season light on Rooney while Ferguson rests him because he is injured and Rooney claims he is not. Eighteen goals from eight Premier League matches trails only prolific Chelsea even if that pace might ebb against the long-season slog.

No, a leakiness from ahead has hurt more. But for three draws wrought from Fulham's 89th-minute leveller, plus Everton's bewildering two added-time goals to earn a 3-3 draw, plus West Bromwich Albion's two second-half goals from 2-0 down at Old Trafford, United would top the league.

Ferguson's remnants might creak, but he has creaked before - see the middle of last decade - and clambered back, and his team-over-diva ethic deserves polite applause.

If Rooney does leave Manchester United, it could be something to behold, even if in the annals of player-manager tiffs none of it would match Ruud Gullit exiting Newcastle United in 1999 and saying of Alan Shearer: "I told him to his face he was the most overrated player I have ever seen."

As good as this particular break-up theatre might be, that one should remain insuperable.

cculpepper@thenational.ae