In July 2008, Sir Alex Ferguson sat by the side of a pitch in Durban and told a group of us that he had to start being fairer to Wayne Rooney.
He admitted he had been moving him round the pitch too much and it was time to restore him to centre forward.
Ferguson’s words were well-intentioned but didn’t come to much. A month later, the Manchester United manager spent £30million on signing Dimitar Berbatov.
Mesut Ozil has brought his time at Arsenal to an end and joined Turkish club Fenerbahce
Ozil’s seven-and-a-half career at the Emirates feels like a waste as he never saw the big picture
So as time went on, Rooney continued to suffer for his willingness and his versatility. Ferguson shunted him here, there and everywhere to plug holes in his team.
It irritated Rooney at times but he never said much. He got on with it and, between that summer and Ferguson’s retirement five years later, he won three more Premier League titles. The bottom line is that Rooney saw the bigger picture in a way that Mesut Ozil never has.
Rooney retired last week with dreams fulfilled and ambitions sated. Ozil, meanwhile, is about to leave English football without leaving behind so much as a single footprint.
Wayne Rooney made huge sacrifices for United under Sir Alex Ferguson, but Ozil never did
Ozil gets an awful lot of attention, doesn’t he? He has his supporters, those who appreciate his remarkable vision and anticipation, his ability to read a situation and pass the ball beautifully.
It’s just weird those people can’t also see the stuff he doesn’t do. Like running, for example.
But Ozil only attracts so much focus because he is so talented and because much of the past seven and a half years has been a waste.
There’s no doubt about Ozil’s talent, but there are plenty of things the German doesn’t do
Ozil failed to cement his place as the focal point at one of the greatest clubs in Europe
Players of his ability do not come along very often. The German was presented with an opportunity to become the focal point of one of Europe’s great clubs when he arrived at Arsenal and he failed to take it.
He could have become the answer but instead he morphed into just another problem.
Speak to players and they will tell you what truly great talent needs. It needs hard work, desire and application smeared on top of it. Otherwise, it withers. Cristiano Ronaldo was as vain as they come. His United team-mates joked he needed a dressing room mirror all to himself. But nobody cared about that.
He is heading to Fenerbache without leaving a footprint behind him from his time at Arsenal
The men who patrolled that dressing room at United — Roy Keane, Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs — didn’t care because they also knew nobody at the club spent longer on the training pitch or took more whacks to the ankles in pursuit of success than Ronaldo did.
Which brings us back to Rooney. There is an argument that he never quite reached the heights we all set for him when he joined United in 2004 and there is probably something in that.
I remember him making mugs of a couple of United defenders during a cameo as a 16-year-old substitute for Everton at Old Trafford in October 2002.
Rooney, who retired from playing this week, did everything to go as far as possible at United
I remember the debut hat-trick for United against Fenerbahce two years later.
Rooney seemed destined to be a great of the world game and maybe never quite became one. But that, in a way, is the point. If he didn’t quite get to touch the stars in the way we thought, he still found another way to get to where he wanted to go.
Rooney finished his playing career last week as United and England’s record goalscorer.
He knows what it takes to be a No 9 but also a No 10.
When Ozil looks back on his spell at Arsenal, what will he have learned from the experience?
He has played as a No 7 and also as a No 8. Had you asked him, he would have stood in at No 5 or No 6 as well.
That depth of knowledge has been acquired over years of application and dedication. Now that he has become a manager, it should serve him well.
As for Ozil, what has he learned from what were supposed to be his peak years? He is 32 now. What, in essence, has been the point of it all?
From inside Sky comes news that their Soccer Saturday show has a new producer. Only two shows in her role, there is confidence at Sky HQ that she will nudge the listing flagship back in the right direction. Here’s hoping.
No excuses, just cut out the cuddling
Most managers talking about goal celebrations have missed the point.
Yes, we all know that footballers come into close contact at corners and during tackles.
We know that they are all regularly tested for Covid-19 before they play. But that is not what this is about.
Premier League players need to set the right example by showing restraint in celebrations
This is about setting the right example. It’s about falling in to line with everybody else.
My elderly neighbour has not been beyond her front gate for 10 months now. She doesn’t get to cuddle her grandchildren.
So, stop hugging each other boys. It’s part of the guidance and always has been.
No more excuses.
Bruce knows Ashley’s a fan of survival…
Newcastle United fans want front-foot football, some risks taken now and again, but manager Steve Bruce veers towards the risk averse.
It is easy to understand the frustration.
But look at it this way. Newcastle owner Mike Ashley is Bruce’s employer and he wants to sell the club. To do that, Newcastle must stay in the Premier League.
So what version of Newcastle do you think Ashley wishes to see? The one that buys into the supporters’ vision of guts and glory? Or Bruce’s slow, dull plod towards Premier League survival?
We all know the answer and it says everything about a football club that remains a shadow of what it really should be.
Mike Ashley will only care about Newcastle surviving despite fans’ anger towards Steve Bruce