There’s always a heavy focus on Manchester United whenever the start of an English Premier League season rolls around. But this year, unusually by Man U standards, that focus has been largely negative. The main interest for many observers lay in seeing how Wayne Rooney and Christiano Ronaldo would fare on the same pitch again, after their infamous set-to at the World Cup in Germany.
Luckily for United fans, there were emphatic answers on both fronts during the weekend’s opening round of fixtures, with United putting a lazy five goals past Fulham – two coming from Rooney and one from Ronaldo.
United have actually played the whole Rooney-Ronaldo saga beautifully, and Rooney’s midweek comments that he’d tried to get Ronaldo booked in the first half of the Portugal-England quarter final could not have been better timed nor more expertly crafted.
But that’s where the brownie points for Rooney end. For he’s been involved in another controversy at the weekend – one which does him and his management no credit whatsoever.
Rooney was sent off in a pre-season friendly against Porto, and the ban that followed will see him miss United’s next three matches. Because of this, Rooney threatened, through his management, to refuse to cooperate with England’s national team sponsors if the Football Association did not overturn the ban.
According to this report in the Sunday Telegraph Rooney’s agent, Paul Stretford, has written to the FA saying that Rooney is considering withdrawing his support for the FA’s commercial program. “In other words, he will not allow his image to be used or exploited, or participate in personal appearances for and on behalf of the FA’s commercial partners unless he is satisfied with how the FA conducts its affairs in regard to player matters,” the Tele quoted from Stretford’s letter.
In other words, we’re trying to blackmail you into overturning this ban. Even by the standards of professional sport in the EPL, this is a breathtaking display of gumption and a brazen attempt by a player to wield power.
The FA’s initial response has been to say that their hands are tied and the issue has already been considered through their processes. But for the good of sport they need to do more: they should immediately double Rooney’s ban to six games, with a further half dozen suspended for good measure.
Maybe that would make both Rooney and his agent think twice before making such obscene and ridiculous threats in future.