The new Cantona: Wayne Rooney
Cast your mind back - November 1992. Manchester United were a good side, a talented group of individuals, promising much – but delivering very little. United had young players - facing the most crucial time in their formative development – looking for inspiration and leadership. In short, United were missing the fundamental ingredient that sets the truly great teams apart from the merely good teams: a footballing genius.
Alex Ferguson signed Eric Cantona* that winter and the rest, as they say, is history. Cantona’s vision, guile, panache, and yes arrogance was the catalyst for an unprecedented era of success for United – making the side of the mid 90’s, one of the best English football has ever seen. Cantona’s performances on the pitch altered not only Manchester United’s fortunes, but along with Dennis Bergkamp – changed the face of English football – bringing a new sophistication to the game in England that had previously been reliant on jurassic “lets lump it long and see what happens” tactics.
United are now in need of a new genius – someone to raise the bar at Old Trafford and bring United’s play to another level. Someone to bring together the young talents and established players. Someone who can bring a new dimension to their play. Wayne Rooney is that genius.
Rooney is the most complete young player this country has seen in years. His crisp passing, penetrative dribbling, and deadly finishing make him a truly remarkable talent. Yesterday’s goal against Newcastle United was the final piece of evidence that I needed to cement my view that Rooney is the new Cantona. United were labouring and I could not see where a goal would be coming to rescue United from yet another limp performance. But then came Rooney’s moment of brilliance. Yesterday, Old Trafford was a dark, dark place until Rooney provided the light.
It is Rooney’s ability to conjure something from nothing, to inspire when at first there was only despair - that reminds me so much of Cantona.
Yes, Rooney has problems with his temperament – but Cantona had the same (and more), Over the past couple of games I have even noted a conscious effort on the part of Rooney to curb his anger. But all geniuses have a degree of unpredictability, and Rooney’s fiery passion is something most United fans would argue they are willing to live with if his talent shines through.
It has taken a while to find an heir to Cantona’s throne – but Old Trafford has a new King.
* Alex Ferguson only turned to Cantona after his bid for Sheffield Wednesday’s David Hirst was rejected – phew!