Wayne Rooney has a chequered history with alcohol and his latest indiscretion may prove to be the final straw.
Rumours are gathering pace suggesting he is to be stripped of the England captaincy, while Jose Mourinho’s fury at Rooney’s behaviour suggests like at Manchester United will not be any smoother.
This is not the first time Rooney’s lack of social responsibility has damaged his career. This Christmas marks the fifth anniversary of Rooney joining Jonny Evans and Darron Gibson for an infamous Boxing Day blowout. Rooney was fined a week’s wages and dropped from the next matchday squad after a reckless night out during the business Christmas period. After that, his card was permanently marked with Sir Alex Ferguson.
Four years ago, Ferguson was critical of Rooney’s physique, warning the player that his fitness was something he needed to take care of and manage responsibly. Rooney was just a few weeks shy of his 27th birthday at the time. Now at 31, such a warning carries even greater significance. Should he ignore his former manager, the impact on his body might be too great to recover from. Some fear it already has been.
“He is very stocky, he is going to have to train well all the time, there is no doubt about that.” – Sir Alex Ferguson on Wayne Rooney’s physical condition
For what it’s worth, Rooney accepted his physical deficiencies and was willing to work hard to combat them. In his book My Decade in the Premier League, published in 2012, Rooney spoke about his constant battle with his stocky physique.
“I’m stocky. I’m not like Ryan Giggs, all bone and lean muscle. But I gain weight quite easily…My fitness has to be right to play well. If it isn’t, it shows.”
Evidently Ferguson was concerned about Rooney. Despite being in the prime of his career, the criticisms about his physicality returned and a year later the Scot singled Rooney out once again. Despite beating Aston Villa 3-0 to be crowned champions for the twentieth time, Ferguson was unhappy with Rooney’s contribution.
“I took him off because Villa were a very fast, young side, full of running, and their substitute was running past Wayne.”
So if Ferguson could see the problem and Rooney understood the problem, then how on earth did we get here?
How could the Manchester United and England captain ignore every professional impulse and get so drunk as to be almost unrecognisable? To call it embarrassing would be an understatement.
Far from invoking a draconian stance on social engagements, Manchester United have three rules that govern when a player is allowed to drink. One source told the Manchester Evening News that these rules are as follows:
- Do it on a day off
- It has no impact on training or matches
- Make sure it’s private
So while Rooney can rest easy knowing that he did in fact reserve his misdemeanour for a sanctioned day off, drinking to such a degree in a public space whilst wearing an England tracksuit shows little regard for the rules and once again perpetuates the narrative that Rooney is only out for himself.
Yet fans have defended him. Remarkably enough there are supporters who condone his behaviour and believe that we should give Wayne Rooney a break, despite the universal understanding that he broke rules and behaved in a completely inappropriate manner.
One fan phoned BBC 5 live to complain about the press’ treatment of Rooney, arguing that there was nothing wrong with his actions whatsoever:
“This has got to be one of the biggest jokes I’ve ever heard. Wayne Rooney goes out and has a drink. So what? £300,000-a-week. What difference does it make how much he earns? … Give the guy a break for God’s sake. When is somebody going to get off this bloke’s case? … If it was my wedding I’d want Wayne Rooney to be there.”
The reaction to this situation has been wildly polarising. Such a vehement defence from one man can be juxtaposed with staunch criticism from another. One supporter contact talkSPORT and compared Rooney’s antics during the international break to Alexis Sanchez, who Rooney may face this weekend in a pivotal game at Old Trafford.
“You’ve got Sanchez patching himself up to play through injury for Chile in a big game and Rooney p****d at 5am.”
And that is just it. This episode calls Rooney’s very professionalism into question. Some players are model pros. They eat, sleep and breathe football and they make the very most of their careers. Ryan Giggs took up yoga, Cristiano Ronaldo avoids alcohol; the very best players do what they must to remain at the elite level. What Rooney did on international duty showed the world that he isn’t like that. Rooney is more invested in his own self-interest than in creating an environment in which he can do the very best for his club, his country and the millions of people who have supported and idolised him along the way.
Rooney has often produced his best in the face of adversity. This is a sink or swim moment. For a player who has been written off and condemned by almost everyone in recent months, this weekend offers the perfect opportunity for redemption.
A fit and firing Wayne Rooney would take that opportunity. Is this his final chance?