Wayne Rooney’s isolation: A picture is not always worth a thousand words

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There’s a photo making the rounds of social media, showing Wayne Rooney apparently isolated in the center of the pitch at Liberty Stadium, while the rest of his teammates celebrate Robin Van Persie’s second goal against Swansea. Of course, much is being made of this one snap, captured at exactly the wrong (or right) moment.

The view of Rooney not participating in his side’s joyful celebration is a clear indicator that he’s unhappy at Manchester United and ready to leave the club. It shows that, despite David Moyes insisting that the star is not for sale, he’ll be gone by the end of the transfer window. This split second in time reveals that Robin Van Persie has taken over command of United and Rooney refuses to accept his new role in the side.

At least, that’s what some people are saying. But is there another side to this brief moment of time?

Think about the lead up to Van Persie’s second goal. As the Dutchman raced toward goal, cutting through the Swansea defense, Rooney made a run toward the right, pulling away Swans defenders. This opened up space to allow Van Persie to send in a sharp, left footed strike. Just let yourself imagine, here, that this movement also prompted a tackle on Rooney — one that meant that, as his team gathered around the goalscorer to celebrate, Rooney was just lifting himself up off the pitch.

So the photo very well may have been showing Wayne Rooney’s unhappiness at Manchester United, or his dissatisfaction with David Moyes. There’s certainly more to this saga than has been released to the general public. But perhaps it’s more reasonable to actually put the scene within the context of the match, and to realize that maybe Rooney just hadn’t had the chance to participate in the celebration?

But that sort of rationality doesn’t sell newspapers. It doesn’t get you retweets on Twitter or likes on Facebook. So expect to see further dissemination of this photograph, and its apparent “meaning,” throughout the weekend.