Took One For The Team – Manchester 28th September 2014

In the summer of 1982, Ray Wilkins was chosen to be the skipper for both club and country, following the respective stepping down of Martin Buchan and Kevin Keegan. Fate decreed that a broken cheekbone for Wilkins, just weeks after his appointment by Ron Atkinson and Bobby Robson, led to Bryan Robson being appointed the skipper of club and country instead. This was a position he kept long after Wilkins left United and retired from international football. Wilkins was unlucky that he lost his position so quickly due to an injury but, ultimately, it was best (certainly for United) that Robson was skipper. Probably for England too if I’d have cared enough.

Wayne Rooney could find himself in a similar position to Wilkins but in completely different circumstances. For reasons best known to himself, he got sent off for kicking Stewart Downing’s thigh in the West Ham half of the pitch. The United defence were in position and there was no apparent danger as Downing ran with the ball in his own half in the 59th minute. In a way, I wouldn’t have minded if it was a professional foul, à la Ole Gunnar Solskjaer against Newcastle United in 1998 (shown below), where he “took one for the team”. This from Rooney though was senseless.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer committing a professional foul on Rob Lee at Old Trafford in April 1998 (apologies for background noise)

All footballers have these red mist moments (with the exception of saint Gary Lineker), and Rooney has plenty of previous for it. The most famous incident being when Horacio Elizondo sent him off in Gelsenkirchen for stamping on Ricardo Carvalho’s nuts during the 2006 World Cup and the British media somehow blamed Cristiano Ronaldo for Rooney’s sending off. For that incident, Rooney was a 20 year old lad (albeit very experienced) but 20 year old lads do daft things and can move on. When you’re 28 and you’re the captain of the side, moments like that become far less forgiveable.

Wayne Rooney getting sent off in the 2006 World Cup against Portugal

Rooney’s stupidity should’ve cost United two points yesterday. Reds around me immediately looked to the scoreboard and to our horror, realised there was over half an hour to play when Rooney was sent off. The rest of the match was like the bleeding Alamo. How United held out for a 2-1 win was a credit to a patchwork defence, Paddy McNair in particular. As for Rooney, he has a three match ban to serve. The next time he’ll be seen in a United shirt will be at City on 2nd of November; if it was up to me, he wouldn’t be wearing a captain’s armband.

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Wayne Rooney celebrates his fifth minute goal with his teamates

Before his moment of madness, Rooney had a very good game. In the fifth minute, he brilliantly hooked a Rafael da Silva cross past Adrián in the Scoreboard End goal. Seconds after that goal, Enner Valencia missed a great chance to equalise after a very sloppy backpass from Daley Blind played him through on goal to David de Gea. After 22 minutes, Robin Van Persie made the score 2-0 after some good work by Ander Herrera and Radamel Falcao. Fifteen minutes later Diafra Sakho pulled a goal back for West Ham after a de Gea mistake left the Senegalese centre forward with an open net to head into.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqM-39ikwb8

A nervous Old Trafford welcomed half time. We all hoped United would pick up in the second half but it quickly became apparent that the jitters were on the pitch. After Rooney’s sending-off, the tension was unbearable. The match began to resemble the European Cup semi-final against Barcelona in 2008. West Ham’s playing kit even vaguely resembled Barcelona’s on that fabled night but that’s really where the similarity should’ve ended. That night, Barcelona had Lionel Messi, Xavi, Deco, Andrés Iniesta, Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto’o terrorising our goal, albeit in vain. Yesterday, the combined might of Carlton Cole, Kevin Nolan and Stewart Downing had ex-smokers needing a cigarette (if not something stronger). I’m just relieved Andy Carroll wasn’t playing as this match was made for him. There seemed to be an inevitabilty to West Ham scoring.

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Angel Di Maria preparing a free kick in front of the Stretford End after Adrián’s handball (photo courtesy of Neil Meehan)

In the 89th minute, West Ham had the ball in the net for what was a deserved equaliser. As Kevin Nolan ran ecstatically towards the nearby West Ham fans, the linesman, who was literally stood in front of me, raised his flag. I didn’t see anything wrong with the goal in real time. It took me five or six looks at the action replay when I got home to see that the linesman got it right. Lucky guess or did he really know? One thing is for sure, it was lucky for United, both that the goal was disallowed and also that they weren’t up against a better side.

During the first half, there was a medical emergency in the disabled section where the away fans in the L Stand meet the home fans in the K Stand. Fair play to the nearby West Ham fans for keeping a respectful silence while this was being dealt with.

7 thoughts on “Took One For The Team – Manchester 28th September 2014”

  1. Not at the game. Wasn’t aware of medical emergency. Like you Murph, I would also say well done to the East End lads and lassies, for their respect. It still matters, no matter what we say to one and other, regards football. One thing I was aware of, was Rooney acting like he’s 28, and not able run after a average midfielder, without resorting to basic violence. His job as skipper may be in doubt. His proposed move into midfield, may also be in doubt, if that’s his best offer. But one encouraging thing, was see established stars, new and old, battling like it mattered. Because it fucking does. West Ham, a team in good form, could feel a bit cheesed of with the outcome. But United deserved what they got. Just.

  2. I’ve got my tin hat on here, and think I have discussed this with you before Murph but i don’t think the previous club captain was as exemplary as made out. Vidic got sent off a lot, and often for cynical (ie cheating) tugs/fouls, so i’m prepared to let Rooney off, for now. (And yes I appreciate Vidic was a defender, but the fella next to him didn’t commit a foul for fourteen and a quarter years or whatever it was).

    On 70 mins we looked in trouble and the crowd seemed resigned to defeat. Even their keeper (Adriano?) sensed it and was bollocking his own defenders for taking too long, and stepping ahead of the vanishing spray (thus wasting time). But around 80 mins onwards, the crowd was excellent, and the belief came back and seemed to spread onto the pitch. I’m putting it down to a nameless someone who sits not too far from me who was on his feet joining in. Hats off, PG.

    I didn’t really see a West Ham onslaught, although they had possession, but I cheered that linesman’s flag like a goal. Hopefully the players will get some belief; Rafael looked good again, Shaw was solid, big (ahem) and strong, and McNair was calm. A very good win in the circumstances.

    1. Maybe not as much an onslaught but I definitely felt the pressure once Rooney got sent off. There was certainly a feeling around the ground (as you alluded to) of a forthcoming West Ham goal.

      As for McNair, he was a revelation. He might’ve had a once in lifetime match like Vardy did the previous week or perhaps (hopefully) there’s something more there. We might see more of him before new year, such are United’s options at the moment. Who knows what he might turn up.

  3. Rooney lets his colours show again. He has elbowed and kicked his way through his career and his managers have let him do it, then bent over backwards when he threatens to leave them. Taggart’s first mistake was backing him over the McCarthy elbow, his next mistake was fawning him over his wage demands. That is why Brian Clough will always stand head and shoulders above, because he would have offloaded this jerk a long time ago. That, and winning Europe back to back.

    1. I was going to give a reasoned response to this until for some bizarre reason, you brought Brian Clough in to somehow support your point. In five sentences, you’ve gone (wildly) from giving a very valid opinion about Wayne Rooney’s behaviour to a sweeping comparison of the respective abilities of Ferguson and Clough. Leads me to think that this maybe a forlorn attempt at a wind up. Nice try though.

      1. You’re right, it was a cack-handed attempt to say he needs managing, and nobody it seems has been able to do that yet.

        1. It’s a conundrum alright. Bearing in mind some of the strong personalities Ferguson has managed over the years, Robson, Cantona, Keane, Whiteside and that’s only skimming the surface, Rooney in comparison to any of those figures is a pussycat. Whatever can be said about Ferguson’s abilities, he’s a pragmatist and he partially acquiesced to Rooney’s demands in 2010, truth be told though. At that time in 2010, Rooney was probably the best player in the world in his position (he most certainly isn’t now). Last season he was given a huge new contract on the watch of a manager who had no real political power and a Chief Executive (Woodward) who was desperate for a positive headline after the Fellaini debacle.

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