Rooney ready to face the biggest challenge of his career after penning £250k a-week mega-deal
Published 23:00 22/10/10 By David McDonnell
Wayne Rooney has ended the saga over his future by signing a new £60million deal – but now the hard work really begins for the Premier League’s top earner.
If Rooney thought the past six months had been tough, with his woeful World Cup, poor domestic form and a sex scandal involving prostitutes, he now faces his biggest challenge of all – proving himself all over again.
Having pushed the loyalty of his manager, team-mates and fans to the limit with his explosive statement questioning Manchester United’s ambition, Rooney now finds himself with significant bridges to build.
And after penning a new five-year deal that will earn him £250,000 a week, Rooney admitted he faces a battle to win back the trust of everyone at United for putting them through one of the most turbulent weeks in the club’s history.
“I’m sure the fans have been upset after everything they’ve heard,” said Rooney. “My message to them is that I care for the club.
“I just want it to continue to be successful. Some fans may not take to me again very quickly. It may take time. But I’ll give everything.
“I’ll give 100 per cent and try to build that relationship. I hope we can work together and try and win trophies.
“Once it (the contract issue) became public knowledge we had to move quicker than expected. Once it all came out it looked as though there was nowhere to go.
“But the manager made it clear the door was still open for me to sign. That’s when I spoke to my agent. I said ‘Let’s go and sit down and get it resolved’. I’m glad we sorted it out.”
But it will take more than bold talk for many in and out of Old Trafford to forgive Rooney for the unsavoury saga of the past week. The only way Rooney, who turns 25 tomorrow, can earn redemption is through his performances on the pitch.
A measure of Rooney’s current dip in form is that he has not scored a goal in open play for United since March 30 and, while an ankle injury will keep him out for the next three weeks, he will be expected to make an instant impact on his return.
“I can’t wait to play,” said Rooney. “I’m just gutted that I’m injured. I just want to get back on to the pitch and back to my best.
“There’s obviously been a lot of controversy over this, but I’m delighted to finally sign. It’s been difficult for me and for the club as well.
“But I felt I had to get my point across. As a player I care for the club, but I had some concerns. I made David Gill and the manager aware of that, but then it didn’t really move forward.
“When it was made public that made it more difficult and myself and the club felt we had to move quickly to sort it out. Talks with the manager, David Gill and the Glazers confirmed to me that this is the right club to be at and that I will be successful and continue to win things.
“There were other things I wanted to air and then I was happy to move forwards and sign. It’s about the football club and my career and I had to think about it very hard. I’m just delighted it’s over and we can put it to the back of our minds.”
Rooney paid tribute to Sir Alex Ferguson for convincing him to stay, the United boss having persuaded the striker he would be making the biggest mistake of his career by leaving to join, in all likelihood, their local rivals Manchester City.
Fear of a leap into the unknown, despite the mega-riches on offer at City, as well as Fergie’s warning that few players ever leave United and better themselves, persuaded him to stay put.
With Rooney able to command a bigger salary elsewhere, it was never about the money, although the £160,000 a week, plus around £90,000 a week on top in image rights, have made him the country’s top- earning player.
As well as a mind-blowing salary, Rooney was assured by Fergie and Gill that United, despite the obvious financial handicaps imposed by the club’s ownership under the Glazers, would make available funds to sign top players next summer.
And, with an assurance that Fergie intended to stay at the helm at United for at least the next two seasons, Rooney felt his concerns had been addressed and he and his agent Paul Stretford agreed to sign a new deal.
“The manager has been fantastic,” said Rooney. “He’s one of the reasons I came to the club, to work under him and be successful.
“I’m hoping that over the next few years we can do that again. He’s not the only reason I’m staying here. The supporters have been great. But he’s a big reason. He has experience, passion and the will to win.”
Rooney’s United and England team-mate, Rio Ferdinand, admitted the past week had been trying for everyone at Old Trafford but hailed the outcome.
“You’ve seen great players in the past leave this club and always talk about regretting it,” he said. “I think he’s put all of that into his thought process and decided this is the best place for him. It’s important we get together as a team now and put this behind us.
“We need to make sure we use this as a catalyst to kick on for the rest of the season.”
Whether Rooney can do the same, drawing a line under the saga over his future and using it as a chance to relaunch his United career, remains to be seen. But nothing less will do.