You have to hand it to Wayne Rooney – and Manchester United have, in
astronomical terms – because the England forward certainly knows how to play
the money game to his advantage.
Rooney has finally agreed a new five-and-a-half year contract to stay at Old
Trafford until close to his 34th birthday and he will be paid
£300,000-a-week to remain in the No 10 shirt.
Not for bad for a player who, just 12 months ago, was hurtling towards the
exit door following the breakdown of his relationship with Sir Alex
Back then, Rooney had lost form and fitness, Robin van Persie had usurped him
as United’s main man and the ultimate kick in the teeth was looming on the
horizon with Ferguson proceeding to name him as a substitute in the decisive
Champions League defeat against Real Madrid last March.
At that stage, United and Ferguson were prepared to offload Rooney to any club
willing to offer in the region of £25million while the player was also
quickly coming to the realisation that his future would be best served
The fact that we have now arrived at the situation where United and Rooney
have made up to the extent that he has committed the rest of his career to
the club is remarkable.
It is also perhaps a sign of United’s current position of weakness and the
reality that Rooney genuinely had few better options elsewhere.
To suggest that United and Rooney are stuck with each other would be
over-playing the point, but there is certainly a sense that the new contract
has been the result of a climbdown by both sides.
Rooney was ready to leave last summer, prepared to end his nine-year spell at
United to play for Chelsea.
The 28-year-old was seeking a new challenge, wanted to be loved and treated as
the central figure again following his final, wasted season under Ferguson.
And while United would have been prepared to let him go had Ferguson remained
in charge, the danger of losing the club’s poster boy in the first weeks of
David Moyes’s reign as manager was simply too damaging to contemplate.
Still, United were not prepared to throw a new contract under Rooney’s nose
last summer. Far from it.
The view from inside the club was that the player had hardly earned the right
to hold a gun to United’s head having just ended his worst season at Old
Ed Woodward, David Gill’s successor as United’s deal-maker, admitted that the
club were ready to wait until the summer of 2014 before taking a view on
Rooney and that there was even the possibility of allowing him to run his
contract down to become a free agent in 2015.
United were happy to talk tough at the same time as telling Chelsea where to
go, but that was then and this is now.
From being the champions last summer and the dominant force in English
football, this season has seen a dramatic changing of the landscape.
United have had a shocker. They currently sit languishing in seventh position
in the Premier League, are out of both domestic cups and relying on an
unlikely triumph in the Champions League final in May to play in the
competition again next season.
From holding all the aces on Rooney in July, they have now seen the tables
turned, with the player’s return to form this season restoring his
The end result is that Rooney, just like in October 2010, when he used
interest in Manchester City to spook United into handing him a lucrative new
contract, has taken advantage of the club when they have been at their
Strangely enough, while his form in the early months of the campaign hinted at
a return to his best form, recent weeks have been less impressive.
The persistent groin injury which forced him out of the team in January has
clearly blunted Rooney’s effectiveness and 2014, to date, has been a
wash-out, with no goals in five games as United have struggled.
Rooney has not performed in the manner of Luis Suarez or Sergio Aguero this
season, he has not won games on his own – the Boxing Day victory at Hull
City, perhaps an argument against that – and we have still to see him drag
United to results in the manner of an Eric Cantona, Roy Keane or even Van
But despite all that, United now need him more than ever. They need Rooney’s
name and reputation as much as his goals.
Imagine United losing Rooney this summer, at the same time as awaiting the
draw for the Europa League qualifiers in July?
It would be a huge blow to the club’s prestige and do little to persuade the
world’s top players that Old Trafford remained a destination for the very
So United have had to cave in and get the deal done, while Rooney has realised
that, however much the club may be in transition, he was not going to get a
similarly lucrative and lengthy deal elsewhere.
Rooney once insisted he would not play on until his mid-thirties like Paul
Scholes and Ryan Giggs, with the player’s physical make-up hinting at
difficulties in performing at the highest level at 34.
Thanks to his new contract, he will be earning £300,000-a-week as he builds up
to that birthday, so United must have faith that he can confound his doubts
to remain an effective player at the very highest level.
But that is for the long-term. The immediate priority was to strike a blow to
underpin United’s status as one of the biggest clubs in the world and, by
keeping Rooney, they have done that.