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
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own