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Apparently, Wayne Rooney Has Entered An Irreversible Decline. We’ve Been Here Before.

Manchester United has played four games this season, and captain Wayne Rooney has startedrooney bad all of them. Against Tottenham and Aston Villa, Rooney didn’t record a single shot on target. In Tuesday’s Champions League match – as Memphis Depay showed off his dance moves  in front of thousands of once skeptical, now adoring fans – Rooney patiently jogged in circles, waiting for something (a mis-hit cross, a wayward free kick, one of the six dozen long-distance shots Memphis pounded into the penalty area) to fall his way. Yesterday United drew 0-0 with Newcastle. Rooney had a goal disallowed.

The English papers have covered Rooney’s poor start with their usual brand of reactionary grandstanding and shameless myopia. In the Telegraph, Jim White argued that Rooney has lost his old aggression and enthusiasm: “For those who have watched him over the years, the fear is there is nothing temporary about his decline.”

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Five Years Later, Manchester United Is Finally Taking Wayne Rooney’s Advice

In October 2010, Wayne Rooney announced he was leaving Manchester United because rooney applausethe club could no longer attract star players in the transfer market. “I met with [United chief executive] David Gill last week, and he did not give me any of the assurances I was seeking about the future squad,” Rooney said. The news of Rooney’s impending departure triggered a frightening reaction: A mob of 40 fans clad in hoods and balaclavas gathered outside the gates of his Cheshire mansion, chanting insults and waving banners.

Rooney’s concerns were completely legitimate; he just wasn’t the right person to voice them. Since losing Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid, United had missed out on almost all of their top transfer targets: Franck Ribery, Karim Benzema, Wesley Sneijder. The fans who showed up at Rooney’s house were members of the Continuity Manchester Education Committee, a group of vigilante-activists who fought to prevent the Glazer family’s controversial 2005 takeover. They almost certainly shared Rooney’s apprehension about the club’s future. But Rooney – still recovering from a series of dreadful performances at the World Cup, as well as the public embarrassment of his second major sex scandal – lacked the moral authority to speak truth to the Glazers. (The tabloid rumors linking him with a big-money transfer to Manchester City didn’t help.)

Rooney eventually decided to stay at Old Trafford, thanks to the persuasive magic of a 160K-a-week contract offer. But his complaints about United’s transfer business marked a significant chapter in the club’s ongoing transition to the world of post-Sir Alex Ferguson soccer.

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