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Rooney’s back from the Brink

This week has probably seen the biggest football story of the season begin and end.

With little fanfare, Manchester United have announced that they have signed Wayne Rooney on a further five year contract; the player who said earlier in the week he wanted a move from the club.

For whatever reason, Rooney and the club allowed their disagreement to be made public. There could possibly be two reasons for this. On the club side, they were probably desperate to make sure their fans didn’t blame them for letting their prized asset leave. On the player’s side, he probably wanted the maximum exposure to ensure his contract demands were met. Of course, both may be completely wrong.

Rooney’s tactics and excuses are questionable, but in one detail he raised a worrying fact. And that is United lack ambition. This will be argued against strongly by the club and fans alike. But the perception that a key figure within the club is questioning their buying policy is a concern. United’s insistence on buying younger, less experienced players, who have a resale value, is a gamble on present success versus future achievement. It certainly paves the way for quality players to be brought in but at the expense of immediate glory.

The plan works if success is constant; it fails if there is a barren year or two.

The refusal to buy players who are experienced at the level the United play at obviously concerns Rooney, and possibly other members of the squad. They will be hungry to continue the success the club has achieved over recent years under Ferguson. No one can bet against United doing this. But was Rooney right to highlight it so loudly in his statement? Only time will tell, but it may well force the club, so apparently hamstrung by the Glazer hierarchy’s lack of funds, to alter their strategy.

Sir Alex Ferguson, in bringing the issue to a head has, in fact, brought the whole issue to a speedy and satisfactory conclusion. Only he will know if the very public spat was worth it to him.

What United have done is ensured that the best player England have, probably by a country mile, remains at the biggest club in the world. That is what the club needed and probably deserves for their belief in him in the first place.
One of the hardest jobs they’ve got now is to keep the player happy, given his public protestations.

Rooney’s biggest challenge now is to regain the trust of the fans. It has to be said that they didn’t take the news of rejection well. And why should they? They have a right, in public and in private, to expect loyalty from their senior players. Rooney would be wise to take a leaf out of Ryan Giggs’ book. A model professional if ever there was one.

So was it money? Was it a lack of ambition? Was it the recent turmoil surrounding his personal life? We’ll probably never know. But there’s one thing for sure: there wouldn’t have been a shortage of clubs ready and willing to include Rooney on their team sheet.

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