SINCE first moving to Manchester United, Wayne Rooney has grown into a key player in ensuring their seemingly never-ending success.
The Premier League giants purchased him in 2004 for £25million from Everton, in a move that was the most expensive transfer for a teenager at the time. In his 10 years as a Red Devil, he has been a key cog of a team that has had major success on the field, as well as reaping major financial rewards off the pitch. Anyone that bought a copy of the FIFA computer games, or seen him hawking Nike boots and Coca-Cola products around a World Cup will almost certainly guess this has seen him receive further rewards.
His ability as a player is certainly unquestionable. He has scored 150 Premier League goals for United – the same number Michael Owen managed in his whole career – and when the World Cup rolls around in June, he will once again be touted as the major hope for England looking to go forth.
But despite all this success, he still does not seem to be that happy. During the 2010-11 season, he almost walked out on the men from Old Trafford to move across Manchester to join City, feeling the club did not have the ambition to challenge.
The bare-faced cheek to say Manchester United are not an ambitious club was extraordinary, considering their level of success and history.
This level of disrespect should have been rewarded with the exit door as this is what such insolence and arrogance would get in a normal line of work, or indeed at a normal football club. But because Rooney is a huge name footballer playing for a huge name football team, he was rewarded with an enormous contract.
Despite that, the rumours on his future would surface again about 2 1/2 years later. It is highly likely that Rooney would be playing for another club if Sir Alex Ferguson had not retired at the end of the 2012-13 season.
The striker and manager did not seem to get on by the end of the campaign, and with the returning Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho interested in bringing the striker to Stamford Bridge, it seemed likely a move was on.
But summer came and went without him moving to London and he duly returned. He seemed almost as if he didn’t want to be in the famous red shirt during the team’s opening day victory at Swansea City, and his demeanour has hardly been helped by a heroically poor season – arguably the first really bad one that Manchester United have had in decades.
To his credit, this is not for the want of trying. Rooney has often been acknowledged as one of the few players to have properly tried and without him, its acceptable to say that David Moyes’ first campaign at Old Trafford could be even worse.
But despite this, there’s been the suspicion Rooney still does not want to be there. This is why it came as a surprise that Rooney was tied down to a new 5 1/2 year deal on an outlandish £300,000-a-week deal, making him the highest paid player in the Premier League. Not only that, but it also means he will likely replace Nemanja Vidic as captain in the summer, will be given a club ambassador role upon retirement and – if you believe the rumours – will be allowed a say on transfers.
The general buzz about this is that United have made “a statement” in tying down the England international. But its questionable if this is a statement in the manner they want it to be.
This is the second time Rooney has been seen to be wanting to another club, yet if this is the price they had to pay, its arguable it was one worth paying. With commercial sponsors for just about everything everywhere, its not as if Moyes wouldn’t have the £50million-odd in procuring a replacement, not to mention the players in positions where they are clearly lacking – i.e all their defence.
It also serves to maintain the alienation between players and fans, as its questionable how motivated you are to cheer on a man who is being rewarded for his performances – whether its a hat-trick or a sending off – with a weekly salary that is way above the average working man’s salary for a decade.
But it also means United continue to look like a team that bows down to the England striker’s whims, as if its normal that minor quibbles about ‘ambition’ should be rewarded with a £50,000-a-week pay rise. It makes them look almost fearful of being abandoned by a player who is not as irreplaceable as the club thinks, and a man who is arguably not the player he was even last season.
So although Rooney is certainly a quality player and the Red Devils were probably justified in keeping him for at least another year beyond an old deal that expires in 18 months time, the nature of the completed deal makes it seem like the player took the club hostage – and won, in scenes almost reminiscent of successfully completing the bank heist missions in Grand Theft Auto.
It all seems to be a bizarre situation, and one that could well be an unsustainable albatross around the club’s neck if United emulate Liverpool in regularly failing to make the Champions League football that can fuel these spending sprees.