By Simon Glanville
Newspaper headlines have been dominated this week by the surprising tug-of-war battle between Manchester United and Wayne Rooney. That saga may now have come to a fruitful conclusion for both club and player - with Rooney signing a five-year deal just days after stating his wish to leave - but it has left a bitter taste in the mouth of managers, players, pundits and fans.
The subject of player power has never been more of an issue. Yet at one of Manchester United’s fiercest rivals, a similar situation has gone under the radar. That is because the player in question, Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas, has shown the utmost professionalism.
Not for the first time, World Cup winner Fabregas was strongly linked to home-town club Barcelona over the summer. It was a poorly kept secret that the Spanish midfielder wanted the move.
Prior to the World Cup, Fabregas reportedly told Arsenal he wanted a return to Spain. After lengthy discussions with Wenger, he agreed to leave it in his mentor’s hands.
"I will only say one thing, I have great respect for Arsene Wenger, for Arsenal Football Club and for the Arsenal fans," said Fabregas before the tournament.
"I had a long conversation with Arsene, it is probably the greatest conversation I have had with someone in my life, and I respect him so much and I don't want to say too much about this.
"He told me to concentrate on my football, to concentrate on the World Cup. He told me to leave it in his hands and he will deal with whatever happens for my future. It is not up to me anymore, it is just now about Arsenal and however it has to be, that is it.”
Following the World Cup, Wenger informed his star man that Barcelona’s advances had been rejected and that he would be staying put at the Emirates. Rather than throw his toys out of his pram, Fabregas has got on with the job.
The player conceded that a return to the Nou Camp more than appealed to him, but revealed Wenger played a key role in convincing him to remain in London.
"I cannot deny that joining a club like Barcelona was not an attractive move for me," he stated in August.
"This was the club where I learnt my football; it is my home town where my friends and family are and a club where I have always dreamed of playing. There are not many players in the world who would not want to play for Barcelona."
However, he insisted he was "100% focused" on playing well for Arsenal.
"I owe a lot to the club, manager and the fans and I will respect their decision and will now concentrate on the new season ahead with Arsenal," he added.
That is the way to behave. Fabregas will one day return to Barcelona, maybe even sooner rather than later, but he owes it to his manager to remain at Arsenal in the short-term to help them in their quest to win trophies.
While Fabregas’ behaviour has not caused problems for his club, Rooney has done the opposite. He has alienated himself and angered fans by the way the whole situation has been handled.
Rumours surfaced at the start of the week that he wanted out at Old Trafford, claims that were confirmed by a shell-shocked Sir Alex Ferguson. Rooney then spoke out to why he wanted away, suggesting that his team-mates were not up to moving the club forward.
“I met with David Gill United last week and he did not give me any of the assurances I was seeking about the future squad," Rooney confirmed in the statement. "I then told him that I would not be signing a new contract."
Like Fabregas, Rooney spoke of his respect for his manager. But by going public on his thoughts on the quality of the Old Trafford squad, he showed no respect whatsoever.
To question a man who has won 26 major honours was wrong; To question a man who has developed him into one of the world’s best players was wrong; To question a man who has stuck by him while his private life has been scrutinised in the papers was wrong.
After all of that, Rooney singed a new-five year deal to stay with the Red Devils days later.
“He is a great manager. I have said many times one of the big reasons I joined this club was to work under him, with his experience, passion and will to win,” said Rooney after committing his future to the club.
"I wanted to be successful working with him. I have managed to do that. I am hoping in the next few years we can do that again."
It’s unclear exactly what changed Rooney’s mind, but money was probably involved. Rooney may now be feeling pretty happy with himself, but the long-term damage this week’s events have caused could be telling.
He is already under huge pressure after failing to win back his form, and this will make that task even harder. Manchester United fans may be happy he is staying, but relations with their star striker have been severely strained.
His team-mates are also going to take some winning round, after his open criticism of their abilities. Even his manager will not be amused with the events of the past week.
While Fabregas has shown respect and got on with the job, Rooney has made himself the villain. The pressure’s on Wayne, over to you…