Late into Friday evening, pen was finally put to paper as Wayne Rooney committed his long term future to Manchester United. Even as the ink began to dry on what by all accounts is the most lucrative contract in Premier League today, a torrent of mixed emotions must have washed over the supporters of the club. While on one hand it is reassuring to have the country’s greatest player tied down to the club possibly till the end of his career, on the other there is bound to be a nagging feeling that it is the player, and not the club, who had profited most from this deal.
First though let’s focus on the positives from the club’s perspectives. From the moment David Moyes was appointed as the successor to Sir Alex Ferguson, it was universally agreed upon that for the new manager to succeed, he would need to step out of the imposing shadow of his predecessor. By making Rooney, a player whose relationship with Ferguson had disintegrated to irreparable levels towards the end of the great manager’s reign, the so-called poster boy of his managerial era through this bumper contract, Moyes has made a statement as emphatic as any that he will run the club in his own style, not Ferguson’s. It may not necessarily end up in being a success, but no one can argue that it is a step in the right direction.
The other thing that this deal will help with is in maintaining the club’s status as one of the top dogs in not only English but European football. This point cannot be over-emphasized enough in a season of transition at the club when results on the pitch have been deeply unsatisfactory. The defence of the league title has been surrendered a long while back and now even chances of a top four finish is in serious jeopardy. A message needed to be sent out that in spite of such travails, Manchester United has and will continue to retain their allure when it comes to attracting the top players and Rooney’s new deal, coupled with Juan Mata’s arrival last month, serves that purpose. With the likes of Rooney and Mata set to stay at the club for the foreseeable future now, it becomes easier for Moyes to assure his top targets in the summer that the club will not just quietly slip into mediocrity but will continue to challenge for the top prizes.
And finally from a financial perspective, while the amount the club is spending to keep Rooney is admittedly eye-watering, it is reasonable to assume a player of similar quality would not have come much cheaper especially if transfer fee is taken into consideration. And that is even without considering that there is probably no other striker with such proven Premier League pedigree available in the market. Plus with the Rooney situation resolved, Moyes can fully focus on other areas in the squad that need serious reinforcement, namely defence and midfield.
However, even with all the above factors on board, only the most disillusioned supporter will contest that the Rooney deal is all hunky dory for Manchester United. Forget the logic behind giving a pay hike to a striker – on an already lucrative salary – whose best days may well be in his past, there are other factors here as well that will make supporters feel a bit queasy about the entire thing.
With Rooney now set to play in United’s colour for at least the next season and possibly much beyond, it is now nearly inevitable that he will overtake Sir Bobby Charlton’s record goal tally for the club. Without disrespecting Rooney’s contribution to this club over the last decade, Sir Bobby being replaced by Rooney as the club’s top scorer will not be an appealing prospect for any United fan.
Rooney might be a great player in his own right, but when it comes to his standing in the illustrious history of this club, he does not even hold a candle to Sir Bobby. For starters, Charlton never held the club to ransom, not once let alone twice, and coerced them into awarding him a fat contract. Rooney might chase down defenders, pump his chest and kiss the badge for throughout the rest of his career, but his true colours have been exposed to the supporters now twice in last few years. No matter how much Moyes tries to paint him as a club icon in the mould of the Bests, the Charltons and the Laws, the image of a petulant Rooney refusing to celebrate with his teammates on the opening weekend against Swansea will be etched in the memories for long.
Make no mistake about it, United fans will still continue to support him and sing his name on matchdays – but love him and respect him as they do Sir Bobby? Well, that’s a bridge too far. There is no denying the fact that Rooney has done well for himself by this deal. With United finding themselves in a tricky corner due to certain other factors, Rooney and his agents grabbed this opportunity with both hands and coerced out the best possible contract from the club. The club and its supporters will be very well aware of this but for now there is no other option than to swallow this bitter pill.
At the end of the day, the Rooney contract may not be what club would have ideally wanted but it is what they undeniably need right now.