There’s certainly plenty of anger in Rooney right now, but that’s nothing new. However, without the Machiavellian Alex Ferguson to direct it, it seems the striker has lost the ability to use his fury to spur him on. Diego Maradona talks of bronca, a sense of indignant fury, hatred even, which drives him, and clearly it can spill over unhealthily, as every journalist who has been shot or run over by EL Diego will testify! However, Ferguson has long cracked the trick of using such emotions to inspire a side; “No one likes us, we don’t care” has been converted by him from a Millwall fan’s epithet to a tactic and the resulting siege mentality has brilliantly driven Manchester United on.
Note how United will always celebrate in front of the opposing fans rather than their own if they can. Sure, it’s ugly, but it works. The chips on the shoulders of Rooney, Neville and the rest are converted into sheer will-to-win.
Capello doesn’t seem to operate like that though, and Rooney finds himself lacking a direction for his anger. He aims it instead at the fans, at his team mates, at anyone and everyone, it would appear, instead of channelling it into an energy which can drive him on. He’s no Gary Bennett.
Bennett didn’t need a manager to tutor him; his ability to get under the opposition’s skin and feed off their resulting ire was natural. A game at Crewe stands out for me; their fans, familiar over the years with Bennett’s provocative antics, gave him hell. And he scored two in a 3-0 win, lapping it all up. Rooney needs to learn the lesson and react by showing everyone what he can do.
Of course, Ferguson’s not there to remind him how to do it, so perhaps Rooney should get a copy of the excellent documentary ESPN screened last week on basketball player Reggie Miller’s vendetta with film director Spike Lee. In a play-off in New York in the mid-1990s, Miller’s Indiana Pacers are getting thrashed, but Lee’s constant, manic mockery of Miller on the sidelines drove the player to new heights. Miller scored basket after basket, turning to Lee after each one to ram his words down his throat, and led his team to an incredible victory.
Perhaps Rooney should see if he can get his hands on the DVD; after all, those poor, brave little soldiers are supposed to be struggling for ways to pass the time in their luxury six star spa, aren’t they?