In October 2010 Wayne Rooney astonished the world by demanding a transfer out of Old Trafford. His stated reasons teetered on the lines of suggesting that Manchester United did not assure him satisfactorily regarding the club's resolve to challenge for top honors in England and Europe. It was more like a 'The Club's Ambition Doesn't Match Mine' kinda scenario.
Sir Alex Ferguson, visibly agitated, gave a Press Conference in which he firmly told Rooney to respect the great traditions of Manchester United. It must have been a rude awakening for the wily Scot as well, since Wazza's volte face appeared totally out of the blue.
The fans of Manchester United were disgusted to say the least: here was a staunch support base going into hundreds of millions worldwide which had previously seen Rooney kissing the Red Devil badge after scoring against his boyhood club Everton. Here was a congregation of loyal supporters who had naively believed that the Scouse lad would end his career at the Theatre of Dreams.
The ABUs had a ball linking Wazza's U-Turn with the debt situation that the Glazers had landed the club into. As it is, writing United obituaries is the greatest release that our loser detractors have discovered for themselves. At first, there were stories of Rooney signing for Real Madrid or Barcelona. Then came Chelsea. But as the fiasco worsened, the strongest shouts were for Manchester City.
It was a surreal experience for the noisy neighbors indeed. One of their deluded supporters went to the extent of having a massive Wazza image tattooed on his back. United fans were of course incensed at the turn of events and the constant City rumors made the old-school faithful seriously question the existential dynamics of modern day footballers. Where had the passion and loyalty to the club disappeared?
Another incident happened out of the blue and jolted the ABUs: Wayne Rooney signed a contract extension with United at a weekly wage of GBP 180,000. However, the Old Trafford faithful weren't impressed. If anything, they wanted Rooney to be sold ASAP. He had questioned the ambition of Manchester United and for an overwhelming majority of United fans that was an unforgivable crime. The general consensus was that if he scored for the club wearing a United shirt, he would be applauded for the sake of the team, but he would never again attain the affection and reverence that the fans had earlier reserved for him.
Surely it must have been a complex dilemma for Sir Alex: it was a year that he had a great point to prove, with everyone speculating a great decline for the club. It was October and the team hadn't exactly got off to a blistering start in the league. On the other hand, Chelsea were scoring goals for fun. Most of the pundits had predicted that United would finish 3rd or 4th at season end and a few preposterously declared that United would end the season with a Europa League spot. Fergie wanted Wazza to stay for sure to challenge for top honors. However, there was also the great damage that the lad had done by questioning the club and making a mockery of tarditions of loyalty that United is known for. Sir Alex is as old-school as one can get and his great love towards the club's integrity and prestige is legendary stuff. He must have been mighty pissed off by Wazza's erratic behavior and publicly made his displeasure known by aiming his ire towards Rooney's agent, the slimy Paul Stretford, who as now everyone knows engineered the whole commotion.
Having the contract sorted out, Wazza got injured and sat out for a few weeks. In the meanwhile, Berba ran riot through the ranks of opposing teams and led United's resurrection in the league. Ably supported by Nani, Chicharito, Scholes, Giggs and Vidic - the whole Rooney fiasco brought the team closer than ever. This is where Fergie excelled silently. He challenged his lads if whether they wanted to depend so much on one player that his departure would make the world think that the whole team would crumble. He dared them to prove all the detractors wrong who were doubting the potential of this great club. His lads responded and how. Come May and his team had secured a record-breaking 19th domestic title, as well as making it to their 3rd Champions League Final in 4 years.
By this time, Rooney had publicly apologized to the fans repeatedly for his earlier shenanigans. Seeing the team's remarkable march towards glory at home and in Europe, he was compelled to say, "How wrong was I?"
The key question is if it's enough to actually impress Fergie. Looking at his strike-force, he has a 29 year old Berbatov, currently the top scorer in EPL. Next he has the Mexican sensation, the very young Javier Hernandez, who's made a smashing debut for United. Joining the ranks is the experienced England legend, Michael Owen who's probably the best 4th choice striker in the world currently. Add the two youngsters on loan - Danny Welbeck at Sunderland and Federico Macheda at Sampdoria and Fergie is looking at a bright future.
Every year the club adds hundreds of thousands all over the world to its fan base. While a lot of new fans may not react so strongly to Rooney's antics, the old-school Red Devil will continue to feel slighted. Don't rule out the possibility of Sir Alex feeling the same way. He has smartly used his aging duo of Berba and Owen, particularly the latter by ensuring that they remain fit and energetic for the next campaign. Some may construe the infrequent appearances of Berba during the latter half of the season as a ploy by Fergie to lay the foundation for him to leave the club in the coming season. He has after all set a precedence to move on strikers as they approach their thirties as seen in the cases of Mark Hughes, Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke and Ruud Van Nistelrooy. However, Berba is different to them: a sublime player, who can easily mould his game in the coming years to become an attacking midfielder and be intelligently used to prolong his career. Likewise, Owen as a free transfer and costing GBP 40,000 a week is a great resource at the club to not only be a useful bench option but also to groom the upcoming attackers in the club's youth ranks. Hernandez, as we've seen, is a class act and will only get better with more exposure.
Assuming that Sir Alex has made up his mind to sell Rooney in the summer, let's analyze it pragmatically. He's been used effectively during the current season. His availability has ensured that Berba and Owen have stayed off the injury list for the last few months and are now also fresh for the next season. The key question is whether Fergie will forgive Wazza's indiscretion to the club. I think he won't. I think that Fergie had made up his mind as soon as Wazza had demanded a transfer and held the club to ransom. Fergie took a pragmatic approach. He tied up Rooney to a contract, used him to his maximum potential and will now cash in when he can get the highest price for him.
So who'd like to buy Wazza? Pretty much every club on Planet Earth which can put its hands deep in the coffers. However, it's safe to assume that Fergie wouldn't sell Wazza to an English club. Let's look at some potential options:
Well who on earth who loves football wouldn't wanna see Messi and Rooney annihilating opposing ranks together? While Barca have an attack force comprising Messi, Villa, Pedro and Ibrahimovic on loan at AC Milan - it's safe to assume that both Villa and Ibra are now on the closer side of 30 and Wazza as a team-man and link-up player suits the way that Barca play. In the case of such an event, United may consider the option of a cash plus player scenario. Maybe Villa + GBP 40 Million, since Fergie has been a Villa admirer for quite some time now. Wayne Rooney himself? Yes, he'd love to go to Barca. He's in love with Andres Iniesta.
Now, now - Wouldn't Jose love this? Ronaldo would love it even more combining with his partner-in-crime once more. Wazza would probably love it as much as going to Barcelona. Again, if this were to happen, Fergie may wanna go for a cash-plus-player option and finally bring Karim Benzema to Old Trafford. Plus GBP 50 Million, I might add.
Massimo Morrati is fuming after losing the Scudetto to fierce rivals, AC Milan. This could be a suitable marriage, as United can look forward to a deal like GBP 30 Million + Wesley Sneijder. The thing is that Sneijder would love to join United, but probably Wazza won't feel the same way about Inter.
After winning the Serie A for the first time since 2004, Silvio Berlusconi is on a high. He's already pledged that AC Milan will be spending massive cash in the next transfer window after quite some time. He has after all brought in Robinho, Cassano and Ibrahimovic this season and they rewarded him back by winning the top prize in Italy. This deal could go either way: AC Milan don't exactly have any player that United really want, other than Pato to some extent. Wazza just may wanna go, 'cause AC Milan is a huge club with a bigger history. Senor Berlusconi would however need to cough up at least GBP 50-60 Million to get his man.
So, should Fergie sell Wazza? I know the new lot of fans would disagree with me, but like hell - YES, FERGIE SHOULD SELL WAZZA!
Irrespective of if even Wazza had scored 100 goals this season, you just don't question the ambition of United, demand a transfer in spite of being the pinnacle of the team, make a mockery of the fans' affection by becoming a mercenary and insult that Red Shirt and that badge that you always used to kiss.
This is Manchester United. We didn't thrive on David Beckham alone. We didn't thrive on Cristiano Ronaldo alone. We coped with losing Jaap Stam, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Juan Sebastian Veron. We've come back stronger each time and moved on to greater glory.
Winning is important at Manchester United. Winning with pride and honor is even more important. United will be United, with or without Wazza. United will win, with or without Wazza.
It's clubs like Manchester City that will put up with the shenanigans of their players for the fear of losing them. Not us.
We are Manchester United.
Sell him Fergie. Period.