It's Wayne's World. United is just living in it.
That much is clear after Wayne Rooney issued his statement in which he said Manchester United's ambitions don't match his own lofty career goals. He's leaving, and there's nothing United can really do about it.
Give props to Rooney's agent Paul Stretford, who has smartly used the anti-Glazer sentiment -- the so-called green-and-gold movement -- as he guides his client to a bigger payday at a richer club.
But as much as Rooney has disappointed the Old Trafford faithful, his words will resonate with them. The club is in the business of selling off top players -- Carlos Tevez, Cristiano Ronaldo, and now, it appears, Rooney -- as it copes with trying to pay off its massive debt. And can you imagine what Red Devils supporters will think if the club sells Rooney for a bundle and, once again, refuses to reinvest the money into big player signings?
If you think the situation at Liverpool is ugly, just wait.
Can you fault Rooney for wanting to better his situation, if you assume that United is headed in the wrong direction? Based on the Red Devils' bench in yesterday's Champions League match, a substitution lineup that included Gabriel Obertan and Bebe, it's a pretty safe assumption. United is a team in decline, and Rooney doesn't want to be its talisman when the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and even Arsenal will be much stronger for the foreseeable future. At the same time, as I wrote yesterday, the club should act swiftly to turn the page and rid itself of Rooney so he's no longer a distraction.
Rooney's teammate Patrice Evra has taken offense at Rooney's intimation that the squad isn't up to snuff. (Nemanja Vidic was also quoted as being critical of Rooney, though he's since said that he was misquoted.) You can see why Rooney's teammates would be angrier than Sir Alex himself after a bad loss. Many players on United's roster were with Rooney when the team won the Champions League in 2008: Wes Brown, Edwin van der Sar, Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Evra, Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs, Nani, Darren Fletcher and John O'Shea. They were all good enough to help lead a title charge then. But not now, apparently.
But it's the future Rooney is concerned about. Aging and injured players and a lack of commitment to bringing in superstars -- these are the issues that concern him. Now everyone waits to see what Alex Ferguson and United will do. Will Rooney sit on the bench until January? Will the club be forced to sell him to a rival Premier League outfit such as City or Chelsea?
Clearly, Rooney has the upper hand. Which, in Blackpool manager Ian Holloway's world, brings up the Bosman ruling of 1995, which allows players over the age of 24 to move for free at the end of their contracts. Holloway believes that the Bosman ruling unfairly penalizes clubs that invest heavily in a player, such as United has done with Rooney.
Watch the clip. It's a classic Holloway rant that adds an interesting dimension to the Rooney debate. Do you agree with Holloway? Do players have too much control, or did the ruling give players the necessary freedom from being exploited by their clubs?
At any rate, United is unlikely to keep Rooney around until his contract expires. So set your watches: There's 71 days until the January transfer window opens.