There are few things more irritating and quite as pathetic as multimillionaire professional athletes complaining about their professional lives.
No, I am not talking about Cristiano Ronaldo, I am talking about a certain Wayne Rooney, who recently went public with his struggle for fitness since returning to the United set up after an extended break following England’s European Championships campaign.
It is an all too frequent occurrence, made worse by the plethora of cop out excuses the United talisman has given, and it is even worse to consider that not even two years ago, he was holding the club to ransom for supposedly not meeting his “ambition”. It might seem petty to continue to refer to his spat with Sir Alex, and the disgracefully public arena in which he chose to carry out his ploy for a new contract, but it is not going to go away whilst Rooney continues to show such a callous disregard to his manager, his teammates and the United fans who pay his massive salaries.
There is little doubting that at his fittest and when in form, few in world football can match Wayne Rooney for his all round ability and his match winning qualities. As another writer on this site termed it, Wayne Rooney is a “point-winning machine”. Right now, that machine is broken, and as the manager put it, his nasty injury is something of a blessing in disguise. It has made Sir Alex’s team selection a tad easier and will allow Shinji Kagawa and Robin Van Persie a solid run in the first team as they come to grips with life as United players. It will also allow Wayne Rooney to do something about his shocking state behind closed doors, where it will not hinder United’s on field performances.
The striker admitted in his latest book, which is being serialized by the English paper, The Daily Mail, that he had put on seven (!) pounds over the course of his approximate three week (!!) break. No one would suggest that Rooney, or any other player, does not have the right to a proper break, and three weeks break is not a great deal of time off, but it is fair to suggest that a player as important to his team and who earns as much money as Rooney does, owes his club a certain duty of care in regards to how he looks after himself when he is not in full time training.
His weak assertion that he is “stocky” and not, “all bone and lean muscle”, like Ryan Giggs, is a terrible excuse on two counts. Firstly, to suggest that Ryan Giggs’ amazingly prolonged career and fitness is down to his natural build is nothing short of ridiculous. I don’t recall seeing photos of Giggs on holiday in Dubai, scoffing down pizzas, or smoking cigarettes on a yacht in his off-season. Secondly, whilst there might be some truth to the argument that someone like Rooney will find it easier to stack on weight than someone like Giggs, it is not enough to simply acknowledge that fact and do nothing about it. If anything, it should be cause for even greater caution when not under the prying eyes of the club’s various sports scientists and nutritionists. As a former coach once told me, “you must get fit to play football, not play football to get fit”. That advice was meant for amateur and semi-professional players, but it might provide some food for thought (rather than his gut) for Rooney.
Worse yet is his summation that it is the fact that he plays as a centre forward that his lack of fitness and issues with weight are so noticeable when he is not in prime condition. Quotes from his autobiography read:
“As a striker I need to work hard all the time. I need to be sharp, which means my fitness has to be right to play well. If it isn’t, it shows,
“It would probably be different if I were a full-back. I could hide a bit, make fewer runs into the opposition half and get away with it.
“As a centre-forward for Manchester United, there’s no place to hide. I’ve got to work as hard as I can, otherwise the manager will haul me off the pitch or drop me for the next game.”
One wonders what someone like Patrice Evra or Dani Alves must think when they read such a ludicrous statement. That it comes from a professional athlete is even worse. Rooney’s lack of fitness is not so painfully obvious because of the fact that he plays as a centre-forward, it is so obvious because he is simply in no condition to play a 90-minute game of football at the pace and intensity demanded by the Premier League. There might be no place to hide for Rooney (particularly for a player of his calibre and stature), but what position he plays on the park has nothing to do with it.
Wayne Rooney’s future at Manchester United still seems relatively assured, and I have no doubt that I, and many others, will be doing plenty of writing during the year about Rooney’s brilliance as he returns to full fitness and form. Column inches will be filled with the inevitable comparisons to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and perhaps the comparison is somewhat fair when Rooney is in full flight, but as long as Rooney continues to hamper himself with his lame excuses for being out of shape, and hence out of form, he will never hold a candle to his superiors, no matter what moments of genius he is capable of pulling off.
Admittedly, he and many others have not been helped in their bid for full match fitness by a terrible pre-season, which had the team flying around the world with ridiculous frequency, but it seems to be a recurring theme where Rooney is concerned, a situation he has only exacerbated with his poor diet and discipline when on holiday. The club also does not help by allowing him to get away with his ill discipline.
He might put it down to simply being big boned, or his position on the park, but the time for cop out excuses, as far as Rooney is concerned, is well and truly over.