A true champion

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Updated: Sep 22 2013, 07:54am hrs
It was another Fergie-time masterstroke. Sir Alex Fergusons first interview since his retirement as Manchester United manager and his elevation as a club director couldnt have come at a better time.

He spoke to MUTV and the segment that dealt with Wayne Rooney naturally made headlines. I thought Wayne was fantastic (on Tuesday against Bayer Leverkusen). Hes got his energy back, his determination, his purpose to attack, said Sir Alex.

Being a director, Im delighted to see that. Hes back to what we always remember, he added.

It was a paradigm shift from what he observed four months ago after the League was won last season. The former United manager had questioned Rooneys fitness then, left him out of the starting XI in big games and publicly revealed that the player wanted a move out of the Old Trafford.

Ferguson never cared about the big names and big egos because he was bigger than everybody. He demanded certain standards to play for the first team and Rooney failed to meet them last season. He looked unfit and occasionally appeared to be sulking. But like a true champion, hes back to his best. He looks leaner, fit and refreshed and completely focused on his job. Even a nasty gash on his forehead, protected by a black headband, couldnt prevent him from going full-throttle.

Credit should be given to new manager David Moyes for thwarting Chelseas offers and successfully persuading Rooney to stay at the club. But more than anything else, it was the players personal pride that helped him make a successful comeback and prove a point or two to his detractors.

In the first five matches of the season, including the Champions League fixture against Leverkusen, Rooney has scored three goals and made three perfect assists.

Hes once again playing in his favourite position just behind the striker and is no longer being pushed to the left. Moyes is heavily relying on the Rooney-Robin van Persie axis and if the duo maintain their form, then United have a great chance to defend their Premier League title.

Europe would be a tougher proposition with Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Real Madrid playing at a different level. But United have made a bright start to their Champions League campaign with a 4-2 win over Leverkusen. Rooney scored two in that game and became only the fourth player in the clubs history to reach 200 goals. Only Jack Rowley (211), Denis Law (237) and Sir Bobby Charlton (249) are ahead of him.

But is Rooney happy at United Is he intent on making history and commit his future to the club beyond his 2,50,000-pounds-a-week present contract that expires in 2015

These were precisely the questions that were asked after the match on Tuesday. Rooney got a little enraged. Listen, Ive told you, Im just concentrating on playing my football, he snarled.

Rooney, 27, has been playing for United for nine years now and the thorough professional that he is, hes always played his heart out. But unlike Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville or Rio Ferdinand, hes never given his soul to the club. He threatened to leave three years ago, but eventually was coaxed by Ferguson to stay. He was the teams number one player then and the sun was on his side of the hedge. Rooney managed to almost double his wage.

Things have changed after van Persies arrival and Rooneys desire to leave the club during closed season notwithstanding, no top club except Chelsea came calling. United will never sell such an important player to a Premier League rival and Rooneys options at the moment appear to be limited.

If hes still unhappy because of Fergusons presence upstairs, he must forget the past and move on. Ferguson has rebuilt this club and its culture. He will never interfere into the new managers job, though Moyes will time and again go to him for advice.

Ferguson will continue to be the most important man at United and, for his own good, Rooney should mend fences with his old boss. The latter has extended an olive branch. Ferguson has praised Rooney because he doesnt hold a grudge against him and the decisions he took last season were purely based on the players form.

Rooney must realise that. Hes adored by the fans in this club and is respected by his teammates and manager.

History beckons him here if he commits himself long-term at Old Trafford. Hes on the verge of becoming a United legend.

About five years down the line, if an all-time United XI is made, Rooney should be right up there on the top alongside Law, Best, Charlton and Duncan Edwards.