With just four days to go until transfer deadline day, it’s safe to say Chelsea’s transfer pursuit of Wayne Rooney is dead in the water. Manchester United manager David Moyes has spent the vast majority of his summer press conferences denying that his forward is up for sale, to any team for any price, but it took the England international’s showing against the Blues earlier in the week to finally persuade the British media.
Although Rooney’s display in the bore draw heavyweight clash on Monday night wasn’t as rousing and exceptional as many of English football’s talking heads have suggested, there’s little doubt the 27 year old put the rumours of his Old Trafford discontent to bed by putting in a committed performance against his potential suitors on the behalf of his new boss, despite being allegedly thrown on the scrapheap by the Scot.
The Blues have already tabled two bids for the England international, neither meeting United’s valuation, but considering Jose Mourinho’s reduced commitment to the Rooney transfer cause in the past few weeks, could Chelsea’s Rooney pursuit have simply been a ploy all along, masterminded by the Portuguese?
Was the Rooney transfer saga a set play out of the Special One’s managerial playbook, in a bid to unsettle the United camp ahead of a campaign of great uncertainty for the Premier League champions? Was the whole transfer escapade little more than a Kansas City Shuffle (where everybody’s looking right and you’re looking left)?
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There was once a time when Jose Mourinho described Chelsea’s summer transfer policy as ‘Rooney or bust’ in a nutshell. He claimed that the striker was his only transfer target, and his only desired summer purchase. But since then, the Blues transfer department have managed to keep themselves busy enough, luring Willian at the last minute away from Tottenham Hotspur for a whopping £32milion, and they are now hot on the heels of former Anzhi team-mate Samuel Eto’o as they attempt to add another striker to the mix. Granted, the West Londoners are taking advantage of the unique fire-sale circumstances at the Russian outfit, but even at the time, suggesting Rooney was the only player on Chelsea’s radar seemed a tad absurd.
So Mourinho may have exaggerated his interest, perhaps in a bid to show Wayne Rooney some love following years of intense tough parenting from Sir Alex Ferguson. But the Portuguese is certainly no fool, and he’d be well aware of the Red Devils’ reluctance to sell to their closest divisional rival and the biggest threat to their Premier League title retention, for the sake of an eight figure sum that the club doesn’t even need. Rooney’s performances over the last few years have upset some, including seemingly Sir Alex Ferguson, but there’s no doubt the England international is one of the most prolific, tried and tested goalscorers the top flight has to offer, with 141 goals in 280 league appearances for the Red Devils, and he’d be a lethal weapon in another club’s hands.
To sum up, the odds of the Manchester United management letting Rooney join the Mourinho revolution were stacked against the Blues from the start, not that they even necessarily need a striker if the Portuguese can get just one of Romelu Lukaku, Fernando Torres or Demba Ba firing on all cylinders. But either way, it was always a win-win situation for the Special One.
Making Rooney’s future a leading issue of the transfer window has ruined pretty much every press conference David Moyes has been involved in. Rather than being eased into his succession of Sir Alex Ferguson with incredibly tame questioning from journalists reminiscent of David Frost’s latter career, the Scot has had to adamantly deny on an almost daily basis that one of his two star players is up for sale to the highest bidder. It’s left Moyes unmistakably grumpy in tone in the public eye, and his meetings with the press have often concluded with an awkward and frosty vibe.
Furthermore, it does little harm to add to the uncertainty at Old Trafford ahead of the most unpredictable Premier League season to date. The jury is still out on whether Moyes can adapt his Evertonian skills to an incredibly different role at Manchester United, where the money, pressure for results and expectancy of silverware is of far greater intensity than at Goodison Park, not to mention the added issue of Champions League football. Adding questions over Rooney’s future into the mix undoubtedly contributed heavily to discussions over whether or not the United gaffer could make his mark in terms of trophies in his inaugural campaign with the Red Devils.
Granted, Rooney’s future one way or the other would always have been decided by September 2nd, but that short time frame could’ve been all Mourinho needed to leave the Red Devils dead in the water. The Premier League champions have the toughest start of any of the top six, with key fixtures against the Blues and Liverpool before deadline day, whilst the opener away to Swansea, despite ending in a 4-1 romping, was no easy outing on paper either.
And if confusion over where Rooney’s allegiances truly laid rendered him unplayable, in a similar manner we’ve seen from Newcastle’s Yohan Cabaye, then the Blues would have a significant upper hand in weakening their closest divisional rival in the early match-ups, including during Monday’s top of the table clash. If David Moyes had started his opening Manchester United campaign Rooney-less and with valuable points dropped to the West Londoners, serious questions over his suitability would already begin to circle in the media.
Perhaps the ploy didn’t work to full effect, if indeed it was a ploy. But when Mourinho said that his only transfer target of the summer was Wayne Rooney, he had absolutely nothing to lose. Either he would have lured Manchester United into handing over one of the Premier League’s most established goal threats for the sake of an almost nominal amount of money considering some of the other deals that have gone down this summer, or he would have at least ruffled a few feathers in the United camp and got everyone looking in different directions.
The result was somewhere in between, and the Rooney-Chelsea saga, combined with Manchester United’s inability to attract top drawer talent this summer has contributed to a narrative where the Red Devils were once more than ready to scrap one of their leading stars, seemingly for the sake of it alone, before backtracking over fears of being unable to replace the Englishman’s influence by the end of the transfer window.
So it seems Mourinho won’t get his man, and the added chaos of the Rooney debacle didn’t debase the start of David Moyes’ tenure by epic proportions. But it was an interesting Kansas City shuffle (where everybody’s looking right and you’re looking left), and it’s at least made the transition between two eras and two managers at Old Trafford a far less comfortable process than it could have been.
Was Jose Mourinho serious in his pursuit of Wayne Rooney?
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