A story without an edge
The most entertaining bit in Wayne Rooney’s chronicle of his decade in English Premier League (EPL) football, most of it spent with Manchester United, is, ironically, his description of Barcelona.
“Pass. Move. Pass. Move. Passmovepassmovepassmove.”
“Those three players (Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta, Lionel Messi) are so skillful, so quick that we can only chase shadows as they pass the ball and move around the park… they take charge of the game, passing the ball around us like we’re not even there,” Rooney writes in a glowing tribute to his rivals, “the greatest club team in the world”.
This endorsement is one of many in the book, in which the England striker has only good things to say about his teammates and rivals in English and European club football. Whether it’s former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo’s self-belief, or Ryan Giggs’ longevity or how Messi makes it all look easy or Paul Scholes being the greatest midfielder in the EPL—Rooney has praise for everyone and not one word that may cause anybody displeasure. This is not Andre Agassi’s Open.
He obviously thinks the world of Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, never referred to by name in the book and always called the Manager. He’s a man “who has eyes everywhere” and makes his displeasure known by letting out the “hairdryer”—by coming really close to a player and giving him a piece of his mind. Ferguson has also written the foreword.
The 27-year-old Rooney, who started early, becoming Premier League’s youngest goal-scorer as a 16-year-old in 2002, made the much talked about expensive move from Everton to Manchester United in 2004. In his eight-year run at Old Trafford, he has become the team’s highest-ever goal-scorer in the EPL, has four League titles and won the Uefa Champions League in 2008.
It might seem premature to put such a short career on paper, particularly when Rooney’s impact beyond club football is yet to be measured in full. He might be among the best strikers in the EPL, but his place in world football remains secondary to the likes of Ronaldo and Messi. The lack of depth in the book is further emphasized by the fact that he brushes aside some of the controversial incidents of his career—the red card in the 2006 World Cup game against Portugal, the swearing at cameras after scoring against West Ham in 2011, the statement questioning his stay at United during his long break due to injury in 2010-11—as momentary indiscretions.
What comes across instead is Rooney’s passion and inherent desire to just play football.
For keen followers of English football, there’s much to get into here. It’s difficult to absorb the feel of a high-octane physical match from the sanitized couch of a living room. “Wazza” brings it in dollops, describing the whole process of a footballers’ training, the pressures of professional football, the claustrophobia of a packed stadium, the chase for a title and the disappointments of missing some. Football, he says, is his life and it dominates every aspect of this book, with passing mentions of wife Coleen and son Kai.
Humour is limited; surprising, for dressing room banter is usually funny. Some amusing bits include this trivia about Brazilian Anderson, who joined United from Porto in 2007. He would learn English from Xbox, so in training he would shout out words like: “He’s killed me” or “He’s in the generator room!”
In another instance, following the 2007 EPL title and after some hectic partying, the team had to assemble for a photoshoot at 9am. How tired the players were, writes Rooney, can be gauged from the fact that Ronaldo wore a cap. There’s reaffirmation of what’s already known: “Ronnie can’t walk past his reflection without admiring it, even if we’re about to play a game of football.”
My Decade is for a Manchester United fan and for a Rooney supporter. It gives little insight into the world of football in general, but has titbits about all the famous current United players. It’s casual, conversational but not juicy or racy.
Hopefully, by the time Rooney is done with football in some years, he would actually have something to say.