This week saw the conclusion to some high stake brinkmanship between Manchester United and Wayne Rooney. The public relations chess is all behind us now, isn't it. Isn't it? James Goyder has a festive recap.
Pantomime season has started early at Manchester United. I’d like to cast Wayne Rooney as Prince Charming but frankly I think that would be insulting to the intelligence of even the most inebriated of festive audiences and I am not sure the make up budget would stretch that far anyway.
Instead, Rooney, renowned for his uncanny resemblance to cartoon character Shrek, will have to be the Ogre. Without wishing to cast any sort of aspersions on Alex Ferguson’s sexuality, I am going to cast him as the Fairy Godfather.
The other parts are by and large incidental but this poorly rehearsed performance will be witnessed by an audience of billions. The Ogre has some highly publicized problems but there are young families in the audience though so we are not going to dwell on them.
Instead, it all starts with a slightly surprising skirmish. ‘Rooney has an ankle injury’ says Fairy Godfather Ferguson, the man who had raised the young Ogre since he was a pup. The audience has no reason to disbelieve the benevolent old Fairy Godfather. Here is a character so respected he was once let off a speeding ticket because he said he needed the toilet. If Fairy Godfather Ferguson says that the Ogre is injured than surely it must be so?
At this point many in the audience were visibly beginning to lose interest and a few faint yawns echoed around the theatre. Then came the bombshell. After putting in an unimpressive yet seemingly injury free 90-minute shift for his country the Ogre denounced his Fairy Godfather’s claim that his ankle was injured
‘Oh no it isn’t!’ the Ogre replied as some pesky media elves pestered him about whether his ankle was actually a problem after an international game. The audience was bemused. What could cause the Ogre to publically question his Fairy Godfather like this?
The media elves immediately took centre stage to debate the topic in true pantomime style. ‘Wayne Rooney will leave castle Old Trafford!’ they all proclaimed as one. ‘Oh no he won’t!’ came the resounding resort from the red and black section of the theatre.
Meanwhile, without the Ogre to protect it, the Old Trafford castle was under threat like never before. Invaders from West Brom had successfully stolen two points and the Fairy Godfather appeared to be struggling in the absence of his beloved Ogre.
Then came the moment of drama on which the entire performance would hinge. The Fairy Godfather took to the stage with only a crowd of media elves for company, the lights were dimmed, the audience hushed and the great man began to speak.
The Fairy Godfather was dumbfounded; he was shocked he was hurt. After rescuing the Ogre from the darkest depths of Goodison Park, nurturing him, spending fruitless years attempting to cure him of some of his more unfortunate Ogreish tendencies, he had been betrayed.
The Ogre who only months previously had talked of remaining at Castle Old Trafford for life was now ready to cross the drawbridge in search of a more prosperous castle, possibly even the brand new one just down the road.
It was said that a leprechaun from across the water had stolen some of the gold from Castle Old Trafford but the majority of the audience weren’t really paying sufficient attention to this particular sub plot. Instead, they were enraptured, entranced and enthralled by the drama being played out between the two major protagonists.
Worse was to come as, with boos echoing around the theatre, the Ogre took to the stage. This time he was accompanied by his closest friend the weasel who many felt was actually to blame for coming between the Ogre and the Fairy Godfather.
The Ogre was emotional, he spoke of his fondness for his Fairy Godfather but his message was clear. Castle Old Trafford was no longer capable of keeping him in the manner to which he had become accustomed and he felt his future as an Ogre lay elsewhere.
The audience were livid, the theatre erupted in a chorus of boos, although laughter could be heard coming from a small section of those wearing light blue. The weasel scurried away while the Ogre lumbered slowly off stage. Was that a tear falling from his eye?
The media elves took centre stage once again. ‘Wayne Rooney will leave Castle Old Trafford!’ they proclaimed even more boldly than before. ‘Oh no he won’t’ came the retort but this time there were far fewer voices.
Every pantomime has to have a happy ending and so it was that the Fairy Godfather and the Ogre would eventually kiss and make up. All those at Castle Old Trafford rejoiced and a 2-1 win away to Stoke City was duly arranged to celebrate.
The pantomime concludes with the Fairy Godfather and the Ogre happily holding hands. The children in the audience are delighted but some of their older relatives can be seen shaking their heads. ‘What is the Ogre doing with that big bag of money?’ they ask themselves and ‘Will the Fairy Godfather ever really forgive the Ogre for betraying him?’
And so the curtain closes, the lights go up and the audience slowly begins to file out of the theatre filled with slightly premature festive cheer. Backstage though there is clearly much work to be done.
James is a freelance journalist based in Bangkok. You can follow him on Twitter @JamesGoyder.