In October 2010, Wayne Rooney announced he was leaving Manchester United because the 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.