A shirt and tie covered with a tracksuit top, as modelled by Wayne Rooney at Wembley on Saturday, is the look of a PE teacher at school assembly. Rooney, though with his Bash Street features, will never convince as a teacher; instead perhaps he better resembled a teenager anxiously waiting for a job interview as a lifeguard at Everton Park leisure centre (pre-cuts, of course).
But then again no leisure-centre lifeguard worth his rubber ring would display as much attentiveness to what was going on in front of him as Rooney did on Saturday. It is why it is impossible, if you focus just on football, to dislike Rooney. He has what his boss, sitting uncomfortably in the stands with his earpiece making him resemble a minicab driver with an itch, has had for decades: an unquenchable thirst for the game.
Where Alex Ferguson gets home and rearranges the pepper and salt to illustrate to Mrs F why the referee was wrong, no doubt Rooney drags Mrs R into the garden and makes her play a game of headers and volleys long into the night. Both were peripheral figures in Saturday's game because of their passion.
Rooney was confined to the bench because of what he said to a camera on the other side of London, but I suspect his words may prove the most enlightening uttered by a footballer on, or in the vicinity of, a pitch this season. They certainly were this week.
The immediate post-match interview, with sweat furrowing brows, or steam rising in the case of Carlton Cole, as the player tries to recover his breath in between describing how he feels, remains one of the most pointless features in the game. Unless interviewees swear – hello Micah Richards and Bryony Shaw – and leave the broadcaster to issue a grovelling apology, they add nothing. It is not easy for the interviewer; ask how they feel or how they scored the goal and the banality is answered in kind. Joe Hart was "over the moon" on Saturday, which may have been a cute reference to the City anthem. Or not.
If instead the interviewer tries for something more insightful about Antonio Valencia's performance affecting the dollarisation of central America, the result is dead air and that for modern-day broadcasters is about as welcome as Mario Balotelli at the Ferdinands' Easter egg hunt.
"They needed to score but we just knew that we needed to try and score to put the pressure off us because obviously if they scored the away goal came into play and so we needed to score and that's what we did." So Ryan Giggs offered his insight into United's Champions League victory over Chelsea moments after he stepped off the pitch. Upstairs Graeme Souness, increasingly the daddy of pundits, offered a rather more considered dissection. He had had a better overview of the match, and he wasn't knackered either.
Sitting alongside Souness, Ray Wilkins, the peculiar uncle of pundits, rather ruins the line of argument with his ramblings (on Monday night he volunteered the thought that if a player misses the goal with a shot it is better to miss high and wide so his team-mates have longer to get back into position), but still game after game passes with post-match interviews full of sound but signifying nothing. If only there was more fury.Reuse content