Old Trafford saga leaves everyone feeling a little dirty.
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You’d have thought Wayne Rooney would have learned the perils of getting into bed with the press.
As much as he may have been advised he can use the media, he will now learn again that the balance of power over what they print will never be his.
Last weekend’s Sunday Mirror appeared to have been the one granted an audience with a member of Team Rooney, the front page reading ‘Rooney Kicked Out of Man U’, the back page detailing how the England star was being forced out.
Inside the covers the main theme was the breakdown of his relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson, yet tellingly several Mirror journalists had the same phrase in their individual reports. It was almost throwaway; ‘double his weekly salary of 100k a week’
Much more potent was the assessment of Ferguson and his role in all of this. Team Rooney had wanted it clear this was a player and manager issue, and had succeeded in getting the paper to sing that tune.
There was no talk of Rooney being greedy, no mention of disloyalty. The job, Rooney and his agents must have thought, had been done well.
The naivety or perhaps arrogance of these briefings is almost breathtaking. Newspapers will cosy up to you only whilst it is in their interest to do so, as soon as there’s a change in tide they’re off en masse to surf that particular wave.
Ferguson did a pretty good job of changing that tide yesterday.
Today the media have transported us from the frustrations of a working class hero to a more critical look at the situation. The Mirror have praised Ferguson for the ‘performance of his life’, given space to numerous supporters branding the player greedy amongst other things, and raking up old stories like his supposed gambling debts.
The theme follows in most of the press. Wayne Rooney needs to be prepared for open season on himself.
He’s dropped the biggest bombshell and has little to offer in way of bargaining with the media. By forcing Ferguson into a corner, he was incredibly ill informed. If he thought it would just make the Manchester United manager aware who was actually in charge, he was unbelievably misguided.
The foundations have been laid for all kinds of stories to break about the player. The Sunday tabloids will be in overdrive right now. Given what his personal life has recently been through, this could shatter his world more than he ever thought possible.
If he wants to leave United then why on earth not just come out and say so directly? Why cowardly leak stories to the press via Team Rooney? Simply saying he was exploring his options would have been much more beneficial to the player, with clubs then having to tempt him away and with the possibility of not completely burning his bridges should his wishes change.
This route has led him to not knowing when he’ll next play football, alienating himself from his employers and colleagues and paved the way for a carnival of media coverage on his life.
It may just be a coincidence that his agent, former Kirby Vacuum salesman Paul Streford, stands to earn approaching twenty million pounds from a massive move and resulting contract and that the burning of bridges makes a move all the more likely. He may actually have the young man’s best interests as his primary concern.
However, even Rooney must be asking himself if this has all been handled in the correct way. It would not be a huge leap of imagination to think he’s slightly shell shocked right now.