There is list of players who have tried and failed at Old Trafford.
That list contains names such as Lee Sharpe, Norman Whiteside, Paul Ince, Jaap Stam, David Beckham, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Roy Keane.
What they tried to do was act like they were bigger than Manchester United. That they were the ones to control their destiny. But what they failed to recognize is that no one is bigger in Stretford than Sir Alex Ferguson, the 68 year-old behemoth that strides the hallways of England’s richest club.
One wonders if Wayne Rooney’s name will now be added to that illustrious list?
If I replied "I don’t know" that would be somewhat ironic, as they’re the very words Rooney uttered to set the tongues wagging.
After England’s Euro 2012 qualifying match against Montenegro last Tuesday, Rooney had denied carrying an ankle injury and was asked why Ferguson had made public statements to the contrary.
"I don’t know," he replied.
One can only imagine what the reaction to that phrase was in the Ferguson household, but I would imagine that hurt, anger and betrayal were the primary emotions felt.
Now Ferguson may be many things and he has shown, with those names mentioned above, that he can be brutally cold-blooded, but the one quality that he has always had in spades, is loyalty.
For his star player, a man/boy that he has nurtured, protected and at times coddled, while helping him grow into one of the planet’s biggest names, to be so off handedly flippant has got to be a declaration of a change in their relationship.
Just like Beckham before him, the father-son chemistry that bonded them so fiercely is now the reason that their bond will, in all likelihood, break apart.
With rumors buzzing that Rooney had suspended contract talks that would raise his weekly wage to around $240,000, it really has the feel that the 24 year-old is making a power play.
Given his current state of mind and form, whoever is advising him needs to get a reality check.
The lad has been plastered all over the broadsheets and tabloids for his off field shenanigans, which include dangerous liaisons, drinking, smoking and urinating in public. His face tells the tale of an unhappy man.
On the field it doesn’t get much better, with only two goals and a handful of assists to his name since rolling his ankle against Bayern Munich on March 30th.
There is a sense throughout the club, and parts of English football, that he has got too big for his britches – ‘untouchable’ – was what I wrote a few weeks ago. Untouchables do crash though. Think back to the likes of Adriano, Ronaldinho or Andriy Shevchenko.
They were kings and were gone within the blink of an eye.
Ferguson is the one man capable of stopping that from becoming Wayne’s new reality.
The Scotsman’s reality has seen him drop his talisman twice in the opening seven Premier League matches of the season. The first time at Everton was surely over the sex scandal.
Against West Brom it was the disloyalty and but for a spirited comeback by the Baggies, Rooney would have spent the entire 90 minutes riding the pine. It’s the old master’s way of regaining control of the situation. Each time, though, United has squandered points.
The fact that he did slouch off the bench with just 18 minutes remaining was a further indicator of just how far his stock has fallen. To think that on March 29th Rooney was worth at least $60 million. What do you think you’d get for him now? That thought must make the Glazer family’s collective heartburn sizzle just a little warmer, because on the heels of a $150 million dollar loss comes the daily devaluing of their most prized asset.
There is no doubt in my mind that the next few weeks are crucial, not only to the relationship of Ferguson and Rooney, but to United’s season as a whole. Ferguson doesn’t ‘do distractions’ but unless he can bring Rooney back into the fold and back to life as the Red Devils’ best player, he may have no other choice but to do the unthinkable.
Then again, Sir Alex Ferguson over the last 24 years at Old Trafford has done the unthinkable again and again and again. Just ask the likes of Lee Sharpe, Norman Whiteside, Paul Ince, Jaap Stam, David Beckham, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Roy Keane. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
Ultimately if you try to play with fire you just might get burned.
Wayne Rooney has failed to get to grips with the flames of Sir Alex and has had his eyebrows singed. What’s next?
Nick Webster is a senior writer for FoxSoccer.com covering the Barclay’s Premier League and the English national team.