So Wayne Rooney was spared the wrath of the Goodison crowd and Manchester United failed to take home three points. How much these two facts correlate is disputable; the erratic and nervy United defending was a far greater factor in the surrender to the Everton pressure last Saturday. There was pre-match talk of the abuse that Rooney had to prepare himself for, and the songs that would be sung. Even Phil Jagielka admitted he’d be trying his best to put his England teammate off. All however was in vain.
Sir Alex Ferguson was not prepared to subject his man to the abuse. Instead sparing him from the eagerly baying crowd and keeping him in reserve for ‘The Battle of Britain’ (why these annihilations of Scottish teams in European completion continue to be billed as battles rather than executions continues to baffle me, but that’s for another day). In essence, Everton fans had managed to persuade the greatest manager of the Premier League era to alter his selection policy.
Part of the decision by Ferguson would have been made up by Rooney himself, and the ways that he would have conducted himself around Old Trafford. Although, Rooney would have wanted to play, and he had already featured, and scored, for England despite the negative press attention. Admittedly Rooney didn’t ply his trade in the Swiss Alps as a youth, and the trip to Everton has a juicer plot.
So maybe this is the precedent for people power: Fans’ ability to have a voice in the game they love, but have to adhere to the calling of the millionaires they love/hate/begrudge/cry over/but ultimately love all over again. Everton’s fans could be the new blueprint in exercising rivals’ team selection.
Maybe the Eastlands crowd will start their John Terry baiting now for the impeding visit of the Champions, why not? Get it in early and see if Ancelotti goes down the same road as Ferguson did. Wayne Bridge will almost certainly be still recovering from his current knee injury, so there will be no hand-shake rejection to try to psyche Terry out. Maybe if City fans starting telling the tabloid press the songs they plan to sing now the plan could come together later.
But if Terry thinks he’s in for a torrid time, what about when William Gallas goes back to the Emirates, or the further trip across London to the West and Stamford Bridge. Neither stadium will welcome him back with open arms. Maybe if Arsenal and Chelsea fans got together in some mass Gallas vilification they could prevent him from playing at their respective grounds, forcing Harry Redknapp into playing Younes Kabul instead – a prospect Didier Drogba would surely relish.
Anything Gallas – or any other player for that matter – receives is small fry compared to what awaits Sol Campbell. Is there a more hated player from a particular set of fans? Anyone now shouting Gary Neville I can hear you loud and clear, but Neville wouldn’t play a single away game all season if Fergie left him out due to the abuse he receives. Newcastle do not make the trip to Tottenham until the end of December and for all we know, Campbell may be fully established in his side’s starting line-up by then. Would Chris Hughton drop him for the game? Spurs fans would prefer that he didn’t so they get their chance to vent their respective angers.
Rooney’s circumstances are quite specific, but he will certainly not be the last footballer to wander from the marital home. If Fergie can be swayed, then others may well follow suit. So remember, when the world’s best players are planning their trip to your ground, let them know what they’re in for and you might just sneak a point.
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