Wayne Rooney is one of those players who needs to feel loved. A fiercely passionate, loyal and emotional figure, he thrives on the mutual devotion of his team-mates and management. But has the England striker fallen out of love with Manchester United?
Whether Rooney really did hand Sir Alex Ferguson a written transfer request at the end of last season will probably never be proved one way or the other. Ferguson said he did, but Rooney has always denied doing so.
Some have suggested that, after almost a decade at Old Trafford, Rooney needs a new challenge. Ferguson’s replacement, David Moyes, did not get off to the best of starts with the striker when he appeared to suggest that Rooney would play as a back-up to Robin van Persie.
While things appear to have settled down since, and the player has given no public indication that he is unhappy, it often appears that the Rooney-Manchester United relationship has left the honeymoon period and is now in danger of going stale, particularly if United miss out on the Premier League top four this season.
Rooney’s current deal expires in 2015, and so far neither club nor player has made any attempt to open negotiations over an extension.
Cue Chelsea. And in particular, cue Jose Mourinho.
According to reports this week, Chelsea are readying themselves to go back in for Rooney, after two failed bids last summer. Mourinho is desperate for another striker – a proven goal-scorer – although he has insisted that he will not make any such signing this month.
Mourinho is a big fan of Rooney, a fact which has openly admitted last July. And crucially, the Chelsea manager is a dab-hand at making players feel loved, that little bit extra-special.
Striker Fernando Torres went as far as to credit Mourinho for his “career revival” earlier this season, saying: “He talks with me like he talks with everyone else. He knows how to motivate the group.”
Torres is similar to Rooney in that he has suffered under the weight of expectation, forced to live up to earlier exploits. But Mourinho has handled the Spaniard with care, and under the Portuguese, Torres has performed at a higher level than any other time at StamfordBridge.
Were Mourinho to succeed in signing Rooney – and it remains an outside bet - the United forward could expect exactly the same treatment. Mourinho’s motivation skills are second to none. His first spell at Chelsea was an historic success, bringing two Premier League titles, and in his second spell he is leading a very real challenge for another title.
Perhaps most importantly, were he to move to Chelsea Rooney would no longer be playing second fiddle, he would be leading the line, playing for a manager and club who had 100 per cent faith in his ability. Is it time for a change?
image: © nasmac