Could Sir Alex Ferguson have known Wayne Rooney was on his way for longer than he has let on?
Arsene Wenger gives the impression of being smarter than the average man. After all, he is known as “The Professor” due to both his education and his managerial nous.
But apparently he is also quite the reader of minds.
The Arsenal manager’s declaration that he “wasn’t surprised” when Sir Alex Ferguson announced his retirement may not mark him out as the next Derren Brown. After all, we all knew it would happen one day.
But Wenger then went on to profess that he had seen signs that the Manchester United manager’s time was drawing to a close.
“I detected a few signs through the season,” he said, “there was already one of them before the season started, that it could be his final year.”
The Frenchman was then asked if Ferguson had talked about his retirement during negotiations for Robin van Persie, a question to which Wenger pleaded the fifth.
“I wouldn’t like to come back on that. I will let you know one day.”
But a discussion of imminent retirement is not a sign so much as a cold hard fact. And if Ferguson hadn’t even told his family at that point, I doubt he would have opened his heart to a rival.
If you want to discuss signs, how about this: during the negotiations for van Persie – talks that Wenger was understandably reluctant to partake in – did Ferguson throw in the possibility of signing Wayne Rooney?
Not then and there, as a direct replacement for the outgoing Dutchman, but as a potential future recruit.
Ferguson has discovered an honesty in recent months, a release from the shackles of the clandestine nature of football management.
It began with his praise for Frank Lampard and Gareth Bale, praise with a hint of regret that neither player found their way to Old Trafford. And yet that honesty was nothing compared to his instant retort to a question about Rooney’s omission from last Sunday’s squad.
“I don’t think Wayne was keen to play, simply because he has asked for a transfer.”
Football stories are reported every day, but rarely is one so clearly confirmed to a worldwide audience, with the relaxed air of a man who no longer needs to keep secrets.
Had he known for some time that Rooney’s United career was drawing to a close? And had he mentioned as much to Wenger, suggesting that should van Persie leave one summer Rooney may arrive the next?
If that was the sign, then Wenger kept it quiet. Of course, it almost certainly wasn’t, I’m just hypothesising. But if Rooney is to remain in England next season, the red of Arsenal seems the only realistic alternative to the red of United.
What does the future hold for Rooney? Could he ever play for another English club, or will any move be one abroad?
image: © nasmac