There's a big distraction from the actual football this season. Unfortunately, it's our captain. Wayne Rooney. He's the England leading goalscorer; he will break the record at Manchester United for goals scored. He's won the lot at United and will always be remembered fondly for what he's done for, and at the club. But time catches up with everyone. It especially catches up with those who made debuts at age 16, have suffered a number of serious injuries and perhaps haven't quite looked after themselves as much as they should have done off the pitch.
Rooney coming out punching: "I don’t really listen to what a lot of people out there are saying because a lot of it is rubbish" [Guardian]— Full Time DEVILS (@FullTimeDEVILS) September 23, 2016
Something struck me this week; Eric Cantona was the same age as Wayne Rooney when he walked away from the sport altogether. The four seasons (93, 94, 96 & 97) Cantona actually finished at United, he finished as a Champion. Leading from the front, inspirational and integral. The latter two, as captain, scoring vital goals in cup finals and personally dragging the team over the line again and again.
Rooney has been Manchester United captain for three seasons. None of which he's finished as champion. Now, I'm not blaming him for our demise. Many factors ranging from Glazer stinginess in the first half of their tenure, to how Fergie left the team, to the inevitable transition after a great manager, failed regimes under LVG & Moyes. But the contrast in the way the two men led and in how they will be remembered couldn't be more opposed.
Since the 2011 season, he has not been the world class footballer he undoubtedly once was. He is no longer the unstoppable force of nature that we all loved. He is quickly declining into a player who has too much power, too much to say and too much negative influence. His touch is leaving him, he's accommodated at the detriment to the team, and better players are forced watch from the bench. He is a conundrum. As the week's pass, there is less and less reason to keep him in the starting XI.
Such is the decline; no tears will be shed if Rooney walked away from Old Trafford. Cantona arguably went too early. It's looking like Rooney will be too late. Don't make the mistake of thinking that being honest about the player's current level of ability is somewhat besmirching what he has achieved. They are separate.
Given his and our current form, it's only right we had a chat about our captain, here's this week's huge debate. It is, of course, about Wayne Rooney.