Wayne Rooney and Jose Mourinho are two of the most popular personalities in English football. With the adulation they normally receive there comes an almost unwavering support…almost.
Strange things are happening indeed. Rooney is now being chastised more and more after every mis-control and Mourinho is effectively a pariah at Chelsea. What type of a topsy turvy world are we in?
Trouble in Wayne’s world
Now Wayne Rooney has been spoken about enough. The symptoms of his decline in play have been thoroughly examined and dissected. Rooney is now suffering from extreme footballing fatigue that inevitably comes after 13 full Premier league seasons, 561 total games of which 494 have been in the red of Manchester United, and 107 senior caps for England. Now it is easy to place the full weight of blame on the captain for his sudden decline. The truth is that it isn’t sudden. It is a natural human response to playing that many games. Contrary to the popular estimates for when a player is done based on age, a better estimate has to do with actual games played and that doesn’t bode well for Wayne Rooney. Of active players he ranks seventh in amount of games played. Two, Mark Schwarzer and Shay Given are goalkeepers and would hardly go through the same rigours each game as an outfield player. The others, Gareth Barry, John Terry, Sylvain Distin, and Michael Carrick have all seen their prowess and limits dip in recent years.
There is just a time when you hit that wall. Unfortunately, a great servant of Manchester United and England has hit that wall. His punishing style of play, very similar to one Rafael Nadal has also sped up his footballing clock. He might not be the greatest player in terms of achievements, statistics, actual gameplay, and individual accolades but he has certainly sacrificed himself for the greater good on the playing field.
Rooney isn’t without his faults and he deserves some flack for every single one of his transgressions. Football is a sport in which you are loved one minute and the recipient of all varieties of criticism the next. At the moment he can do no right. The Wayne Rooney of 2011/12 is no more. All is not lost, however. He can take a page from the book of his former teammate and assistant manager, Ryan Giggs. Giggs was able to contribute to the cause till late into his thirties after altering his diet and taking to yoga. There is a role for lifestyle changes to play. Evidence? Giggs played 33 league games in his thirtieth year. By his 35th he was playing 28 league games and played 22 in his penultimate season at the tender age of 39. Rooney is at a crossroads where he must decide to try and reinvent himself somewhat. Exactly what form the new Rooney will take remains to be seen. It might not be in midfield or as a striker but it can’t continue like this with the captain as a liability.
We might start wondering what reality we live in where Jamie Vardy is on 11 goals and Rooney can’t score a penalty kick.
Mou or less done at Chelsea
Is there any way back for the outspoken and charismatic Jose Mourinho? Few managers in world sport divide opinion as he does. He is too big a personality for the league to lose yet in this alternate universe that has seen Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas (another with a winding footballing clock) struggle while Riyad Mahrez lights up the league. Much has been of his own doing and that fact has been acknowledged repeatedly in print media. His mouth has gotten him in a hole he might not be able to dig himself out of this time. It might be a third season curse. It might be losing the dressing room. It might be a deficient squad being exposed as the league caught up. It could be a combination of factors.
Now it seems to be down to a match against Liverpool. That his fate could possibly be dependent on that result seems unfathomable given the ease with which they won the league last season but it was mentioned that standing still in this league is going backwards and again the blame does not squarely rest at his feet.
What can he do? Shut up for one. He needs to let the football do the talking instead of conjuring deflection tactics and assigning blame elsewhere. Mourinho needs to get his players behind him as they are still quality few can match in England. The best Chelsea players have arguably been the biggest underperformers this season. This game and period represents a pivotal juncture in Chelsea’s season. Already they have crashed out of the Capital One cup and the focus has shifted to transforming league fortunes. Chelsea need leaders and they need a manager who can keep the focus on football and not have his own Mourinho show every press conference. At some point it wears thin.
Who could have envisioned a time when Mourinho’s charm would wear off after the reception he came back to Chelsea with? It began with Eva and spiralled. His seven minute rant interview will go down in many memories as one of the most comical and confusing seven minutes in league history. These are strange times indeed.