Could Wayne Rooney’s new deal be first step in Man United revival?
Wayne Rooney penned a new five-and-a-half year deal with Manchester United on Friday night. Kieran Beckles reports
David Moyes reckons that he is starting to see signs of the “old” Wayne Rooney – and the Manchester United boss will need to continue to rekindle the striker’s flame to get maximum value from the England international.
The 28-year-old has ended speculation about his future ahead of the summer transfer window with United facing the distinct possibility of missing out on a top-four finish for the first time since the Premier League’s inception.
Rooney’s new five-and-a-half year contract, which is reportedly worth a staggering £300,000-a-week, represents a massive statement by the defending Premier League champions, who simply couldn’t allow their poster boy to slip from their grasp.
Without Champions League football, Europe’s elite will be circling like vultures looking to strip the stricken vessel, with Nemanja Vidic already jumping ship at the end of the season and Robin van Persie linked with a return to Arsenal.
But United have been reactive. Moyes was backed to the tune of £37.1m in the January transfer window as the Red Devils smashed their club-record fee and signed Chelsea’s back-to-back player of the year Juan Mata.
It highlighted United’s continued pulling power despite their lowly seventh-place position and an Old Trafford hot-seat no longer occupied by one of the most decorated managers in European football, Sir Alex Ferguson.
Mata’s arrival coupled with Rooney’s mega-bucks deal signals that United mean business under Moyes and won’t accept a prolonged absence from the Champions League should they miss out on a top-four finish this season.
The former Everton striker’s contract extension, which sees the England star tied to United until 2019, also highlights how desperate the Red Devils have become. There was no way the 20-time English champions could afford to lose Rooney.
There is no doubt that the No10 and his agent Paul Stretford’s bargaining position was significantly strengthened by Chelsea’s interest last summer and United’s woeful performances in the current campaign.
After all, the United striker hardly inspired during the club’s title-winning campaign in 2012-13 and Ferguson appeared almost impassive about Rooney’s future during their title celebrations last May.
“I don’t think Wayne was keen to play, simply because he has asked for a transfer,” Ferguson said following their 2-1 victory over Swansea, which Rooney sat out.
Asked whether the England international would stay at the club, Ferguson replied: “It’s not my decision now.”
To put Rooney’s new £300,000-a-week deal in context, Barcelona’s mercurial forward Lionel Messi and Real Madrid powerhouse Cristiano Ronaldo earn less than the United striker.
It’s been a couple of seasons since three-time European champions have seen Rooney put in a performance worthy of comparisons to La Liga’s Messi and Ronaldo.
“Yes, I’ve been here since I was 18 and this contract will take me through to my thirties, which is almost my entire professional career,” Rooney said.
“I’ve played most of my best football here and am looking forward to hopefully playing even better football in the next few years. I’ve had a lot of special moments and hope there are many more to come.”
Rooney’s words will be welcome news for Moyes. The United boss may have landed one of the biggest signings of his Red Devils reign if he can help the striker get “back to the old Wayne Rooney’… rugged, hungry and really committed and with an edge in his play”.
If so, with Mata alongside Rooney and other big-name signings to come in the summer, United could be back in the Champions League by September 2015.