The Last Word: The Wayne Rooney deal means one thing - Manchester United RIP

Striker is now just a salesman, there to impress US investors in a money-addicted corporation

Roy Keane defined the modern Manchester United in his “prawn sandwich” speech.  It concluded, memorably: “I don’t think some of the people who come to Old Trafford can spell ‘football’, never mind understand it.”

Given Wayne Rooney’s status as England’s first £300,000-a-week footballer, it is safe to assume Keane’s strictures are as relevant in the boardroom as they are in the executive boxes. The desperation to secure a marquee player completes the surrender to corporatisation and a culture of gossamer-thin celebrity.

Keane, the captain United  attempted to airbrush from history, had no issue with ruthless exploitation of weakness, be it physical, mental, philosophical or financial. Rooney’s advisers have profited from following his credo of getting their retaliation in first.

The new regime at Old Trafford may be able successfully to promote Rooney as the public face of Mister Potato, “Official Savoury Snack Partner of Manchester United”, but they have been exposed as naïve and narrow-minded.

The situation is as perverse as Keane’s nature. Rooney has seemingly been enriched beyond reason because of his  perceived disloyalty and tactically expressed dissatisfaction. He had few realistic options but is untouchable, irrespective of the vagaries of form and fitness, for the rest of his career. By prematurely anointing him as a brand ambassador, United have turned the last street footballer into a sanitised salesman. His role is to impress North American investors to whom he is a life form as alien as a visitor from the Planet Zork.

These people have to be reminded, whenever the club’s accounts are published, that “Manchester United is one of the most popular and successful sports teams in the world, playing one of the most popular spectator sports on Earth”.

They are warned, in an evocatively named Cautionary Statement, about “numerous risks and uncertainties relating to the Company’s operations and business environment, all of which are difficult to predict and many are beyond the Company’s control”.

They operate in an arcane world which applauds the parasitic business strategy of the Glazer family, whose leveraged buyout, which costs United £410,000 a week in assorted debt-related charges, is notably risk- free, to them at least.

It is such a shame Keane was congenitally unsuited to management. Watching him operate at United in such an environment would have been wondrous. His brutal honesty and pathological refusal to suffer fools are wasted on glutinous TV presenters such as Adrian Chiles.

The Irishman always made a point of praising United’s away following, whom he described fondly as “hardcore”. He identified with their passion, and their response to Rooney as the season unfolds will be revealing.

Those links, on a basic human level, are incidental now, irrespective of Rooney’s ritual genuflection before “the fans” in the statement triggered by the signing of his new five-and-a-half-year contract. Their loyalty is just another risk factor on Form 20-F (File No. 001-35627) in United’s accounts.

The Glazers have already signalled their intention to reduce stewards’ wages in the event of failure to qualify for the Champions’ League. Season-ticket holders will be expected to pay full price for the privilege of watching teams of the quality of FC Sherriff, Pacos de Ferreira and CS Pandurii in the Europa League.

United will need the money to  assuage agents of other pivotal players, who will doubtlessly demand parity for their clients. The wage structure of the club has been compromised and the price of team rebuilding has inflated.

It is as well they have invested £12 million in sports medicine and science facilities. Given Rooney’s physiological issues – he must work hard to keep his weight down, and lacks the tone of a natural athlete – he may have no more than three effective seasons left in him.

There used to be a football club on Sir Matt Busby Way. It is now lying in state in a funeral parlour in Florida. Manchester United, RIP.

Minister Grant left to look a ballet fool

Beware a sports minister being ushered around an Olympic Games in a Team GB tracksuit. The charm offensive is on, and rarely ends well. True to form, Helen Grant, the latest junior politician parachuted into one of Westminster’s most celebrated non-jobs, was engulfed by controversy while showboating in Sochi.

By suggesting girls should try cheerleading or ballet if they wished to remain “radiant”, she compromised the pivotal elements of her brief – sport and equality. A well-intentioned attempt to offer an alternative when mainstream sport is viewed by many schoolgirls as “unfeminine” blew up in her face.

It was a crass political misjudgement. Grant (below) is conforming to a miserable tradition. She had barely taken up her post when her sporting ignorance was exposed in a guerrilla television interview.

She has subsequently attempted to disguise her lack of influence with a series of high-profile announcements on women’s sport which lack clarity and credibility.

Sochi has provided some compelling female role models – snowboarder Jenny Jones, slider Lizzy Yarnold and curling’s Eve Muirhead.

The best? Speed skater Elise Christie, whose dignity in the face of indescribable misfortune was inspirational.

The worst? Helen Grant, Minister for Stereotypes.

The Big Easy

Thought for the day: there are easy matches in international football. See England’s qualification group for the ludicrously inflated Euro 2016 for confirmation. Whatever the draw in a six-team group designed to sell TV rights, a place in the finals in France is assured.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee