Give credit where it is due

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Shamik Chakrabarty | Updated: Oct 5 2014, 05:58am hrs
So Wayne Rooney walked on the wild side again and fell prey to media savagery. Villain, wild, mad, crazyso many unkind words have been used to describe Manchester United captains on-pitch misdemeanour.

But hang on, he didnt commit a felony! Rooney made a silly challenge for which he was shown the red card during Uniteds Premier League match against West Ham on September 27. Trying to break-up an opposition counter-attack, he was late in his tackle and hacked down Hammers midfielder Stewart Downing. He now faces a three-game ban, but football has seen worsefrom Roy Keanes stamp on Gareth Southgate to Eric Cantonas kung-fu kick and Luis Suarezs bites. A section of the media, however, revels in highlighting Rooneys faultsrightly described as lynch-mob mentality by Henry Winter in his brilliant Telegraph column. Little wonder then that this time also, the player was subjected to the harshest public criticism.

Rooney has apologised for his actions. It (red card) was probably the right decision. I saw the West Ham player making a counter-attack and I tried to break-up the play but I just misjudged it.

I apologised to the lads. It was a dangerous situation in that they were trying to break on us but Ive no complaints.

Ive tried to trip him up and, to be fair to him, he got further away from me and thats why my leg is straighter than it should have been, he told Sky Sports.

It was a frank and honest confession, but Rooney was shown little mercy. A player of his calibre deserves better treatment.

Rooney has 10 million followers on Twitter, which suggests his worldwide popularity and fame. And he has earned it, scoring 219 goals for United and 41 more for England. As for the club, only Uniteds greatest-ever, Sir Bobby Charlton (249 goals), is ahead of him. At the international level, Rooney is fourth in Englands all-time list after Jimmy Greaves, Gary Linekar and Charlton. Give him some credit. Rooney was a wonder boy when he made his first-team debut for Everton in 2002. He moved to United two seasons later for 25.6 million and has climbed up the ladder since, providing some magical moments (the overhead kick against Manchester City three-and-a-half years ago is the best of the lot) along the way. He commands respect.

Paul Parker might disagree, but Rooney has always been a team player. At times, hes, in fact, a little too involved, even to his team-mates comfort.

Rooneys consistency level has dropped of late, but he can never be accused of playing percentage football.

Parker is a former United defender who played 105 matches for the club between 1991 and 1996. Hes entitled to his opinion and this is what he wrote on his blog on Yahoo! Sport after Uniteds insipid draw against the newly-promoted Burnley: As for Wayne Rooney, hes been awful. There he was at Burnley this weekend, supposedly captaining the teambut I saw a player interested only in himself, doing nothing to try and lift his game or inspire his team-mates.

The attack continued. The only thing in any way remarkable about his performance is that he collects 300,000 a week to play that badly. Yes, it is indeed a little difficult to justify Rooneys reported 300,000-a-week salary. Hes a fantastic player, but not a game-changer like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo or Suarez. To call him selfish, however, is cynical. The 29-year-old wouldnt have had such a long (10 years at United and counting) and successful top-flight career, riding on egotism.

Rooney has had a love-hate relationship with the United fans. Hes not adored like Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville or Cantona by the Stretford End or Pop Side and never will be. The club loyalists havent forgotten his hard bargaining as he twice threatened to leave Old Traffordfor Manchester City in 2010 and Chelsea last year. United managed to withstand the pressure both times and retain him, but they had to break the bank and make him the clubs highest-paid footballer. Rooney acted like a hardcore professional, which was contrary to Uniteds tradition. Worse, he dared to take on Sir Alex Ferguson following a complete breakdown in his relationship with the former manager. Still, only a myopic would devalue his contribution.

Theres a problem area though and it needs to be corrected. Even after so many years in elite league, Rooney has failed to get rid of his street footballer mentality. Wayne was the last of the classic street footballers. As a 16-year-old, he could have left training and then gone out into the street with his pals, thinking nothing of it. You would see him in the street, hitting a ball against the walls, David Moyes had said after taking charge of United last season.

Moyes is gone for good, and Rooney, too, should remould himself. Hes the captain of his club and country, and must learn the art of captaincy. Hes expected to always behave like a leader, on and off the pitch.

But theres no nastiness in Rooneys football. Only six red cards in 622 matches confirm that. Transition from a street footballer to a football ambassador could be a lengthy process and Rooney needs right mentorship and an arm around his shoulders to grow into the (captaincy) job. He needs support, not hatred.