Manchester United was forlorn by the end of its last visit (in February) to Goodison Park, a 3-1 home victory in which
Really? There's no doubt that the Rooney whom England supporters booed in South Africa was not the Rooney who had single-handedly carried United's attacking potency. His movement was uncharacteristically jaded and he subsequently managed fewer shots at goal than "North Korea's Rooney,"
After turning his ankle in the first leg of United's Champions League meeting with Bayern Munich, Rooney was supposed to be out for weeks rather than days. But he was back in action in the return leg as Sir
Of course it's reasonable to think that personal problems take a psychological toll, but it's difficult to countenance that a player with such natural talent -- remember how ludicrously easy Rooney made the game look
Besides, there are plenty of players -- including
Perhaps it's unfair to extrapolate that Rooney will be the same as his teammates, but we might do so from his past. In 2004, tabloids reported that Rooney had repeatedly visited a Liverpool brothel, with stills from CCTV footage as proof. The 16-year-old was still magnesium volatile, but in the run-up to the revelations, he'd been the breakout player at Euro 2004; in the aftermath, he scored a Champions League hat trick in his United debut.
Maybe there is more at stake now: He's a married man and a father. But Thompson dates the latest dalliance to a time when Rooney was effervescent in England's 5-1 win over Croatia, and had scored eight goals in 13 appearances for United by the time it ended. Once bitten, twice you know the papers will get you eventually, but these didn't seem like the performances of a man distracted by guilt.
Nor by fear -- Rooney reportedly knew the story was coming weeks ago, yet he's inched into United's season without looking fraught with worry. "He's not 100 percent yet," assistant coach
Only Rooney himself can know the impact his folly has had on his game, and it may get harder if his wife bucks a WAGs trend and leaves him. But it still doesn't sit right to blame events so far for a poor summer. More often than not disgraced players find sanctuary, not purgatory, on the pitch. It's been evident almost every time Rooney has taken the field since that recovery was rushed in the spring. Suggesting otherwise smacks a little of the papers trying to justify making it all public in the first place.
According to Gerrard, who played under him at Liverpool,
Villa wasn't expecting
Assessing Houllier's credibility is complicated by the massive change in his fortunes at Liverpool. Winning a treble of cups (FA, League and UEFA -- plus the Charity Shield and the European Super Cup) in 2001 papered over any creeping misgivings about his tactical astuteness, and Houllier's emergency heart surgery that year earned goodwill by the bucket load. Liverpool drove to second place in the 2001-02 table.
But by the time he left Anfield two years later, Houllier had become a reliable punchline, famed more for his bungling in the transfer market than anything else. Loanee
Houllier has been away from the Premier League for a long time, and perceptions of French football will, rightly or wrongly, color appreciation for his title-winning success at Lyon. Some Villa fans (and players) were keen for caretaker manager