Rooney drama in vain

Last Updated : 23 October 2010, 16:01 IST
Last Updated : 23 October 2010, 16:01 IST

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Wayne Rooney, the most valuable asset at arguably the biggest football club, completed an astonishing U-turn on Friday when he pledged his loyalty to the club which, two days earlier, had apparently no longer matched his ambition.

In agreeing a five-year contract with United, Rooney abruptly ended the fevered speculation about his future and left the club's manager Alex Ferguson smiling like a Cheshire cat.

It was all a far cry from Ferguson's forlorn news conference last Tuesday when in a five-minute monologue he revealed his shock that Rooney no longer wanted to play for the club.

Only those in the corridors of power at Old Trafford know what transpired in the following days but Rooney's announcement on Friday that he wanted to stay, having on Wednesday disparaged the club, was astonishing.

Others may call it cynical. Rooney, who had only a year and a half left on his present deal, has no doubt secured a more lucrative contract than the reported 90,000 pounds ($141,300) a week he was already earning — although details were not released — and Manchester United have probably trebled his value at a stroke.  However, the fact that Rooney has agreed to stay on at Old Trafford until 2015 should be taken with a large pinch of salt.

It will take more than his signature on a piece of paper to repair the damage done by the past week.

The impression that all is not well in the relationship between Ferguson and Rooney remains. When there is a battle of wills at Old Trafford there is normally only one winner and Ferguson, who Rooney described as a genius this week, has emerged from the maelstrom of the past few days stronger than ever.

Ferguson barely disguised his feelings of betrayal on Tuesday when suggesting Rooney had disrespected the club and Friday's events showed that no matter how big the player, the 68-year-old still has the final word at Old Trafford.

The Scot's performance this week in the face of one of his biggest challenges has been masterful and those expecting him to hang up his "hairdryer" any time soon may be discouraged.

After United beat Turkish club Bursaspor in the Champions League on Wednesday, without the injured Rooney, he waxed lyrical about "cows", suggesting the one in the neighbouring farmer's field was often no better than your own.

It was clearly a shot at the billionaire owners of Manchester City — the one Premier League club willing and ready to double Rooney's wages.  With a couple of days to weigh up the gravity of his actions, Rooney decided that burning his United bridges was not in his best interests and his language on Friday was clearly aimed to heal the rift his actions have caused.

"He apologised to me this morning and the players and I think he'll do that with the fans which is important because we've all been hurt by the events of the last couple of days," Ferguson told United's TV station.

"I always feel it's a quality in a person when they say they're sorry and realises he's made a mistake, particularly young people, I admire that in people. The job now is to put it behind us, get Wayne Rooney back on that pitch and playing the way that Wayne Rooney can play."

That is the next challenge for Ferguson because Rooney's form since injuring his ankle against Bayern Munich in the Champions League last March has been ordinary at best.
In recent months he has looked far older than his 24 years, a situation not helped by the recent turmoil in his personal life. By signing a five-year deal he has bought himself some breathing space and once he has recovered from his injury, he will hope that that his goals can once again grab the headlines.

Published 23 October 2010, 16:01 IST

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