Judging on his performances so far this season, Wayne Rooney has justified the club’s decision to keep hold of him in the summer after some interest from Chelsea and Arsenal. Both Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho confirmed their desire to sign the player but in the end the most either club were prepared to offer was £24m.
David Moyes repeatedly claimed that the club were not going to entertain any bids but their position wasn’t really tested by any serious offers. When you consider that Chelsea paid £32m for Willian this summer, an unproven player coming from the Russian league who was transfer listed by his club, it was a fairly insulting affair for Rooney. Having played well below the expected standard for the second half of the season, he believed Sir Alex Ferguson should have continued starting him regardless and that he could be first choice elsewhere. Chelsea were crying out for a player of Rooney’s ability up front but weren’t prepared to stump up the cash.
Reports in the paper last week suggest that Chelsea’s failure to put in more effort to sign him has helped spur him on this season and he has decided that his long term future is at United. Whilst he’s never explicitly said it, it’s hard to see the Rooneys living on the continent, and having already burnt his bridges with City, there aren’t many other options remaining for him in England.
When Rooney last told the club he wanted to leave in 2010, his disloyalty was rewarded with a new massive contract, with the player pledging the rest of his career to the club.
It should have come as no surprise when, less than three years later, Rooney was pushing for a move away from United yet again. It is a surprise to read that the club is preparing to offer the player an increase on his £250k-a-week salary though. A few months ago, all the noises from the club seemed to suggest that Rooney’s next contract would be performance related. This would make sense. He isn’t getting any younger and even when we pay him an absolute fortune, £1m-a-month, it doesn’t buy his happiness or commitment. Think of the millions he earned from us when playing badly, or, worse, not playing at all after Ferguson confirmed Rooney had asked to leave.
If Rooney didn’t fancy a performance incentivised contract and the club let his current deal expire, he will be a few months short of 30 before he can sign a contract elsewhere. Whilst a club would save themselves the cost of a transfer fee, freeing up more money for his salary, it’s unlikely that any top English club would want to tie themselves to a lengthy contract for a player in his 30s, particularly one that is renowned for not taking care of himself properly.
The alternative to that is United selling Rooney in the summer but that is a notion that has been completely dismissed by the club. The transfer fee we could demand for Rooney with a year remaining on his deal and almost 29-years-old wouldn’t be worth what it would cost us if he joined Chelsea and helped them win the title at our expense. People have pointed to the £24m we paid for Robin van Persie when he was the same age, but those people have seemingly forgotten that the Dutchman was the PFA and Football Writers Player of the Year when we bought him. Rooney hasn’t even won United’s best player award since 2010, so whilst he is a quality player, we shouldn’t kid ourselves in to thinking we can expect anything like the money Arsenal did from us when Van Persie entered the final year of his deal.
Neither the club nor player are in an ideal situation. The club has a player who wants to leave every couple of years, although there is the possibility that has changed now Moyes has replaced Ferguson as manager. With Fergie singing Rooney’s praises in the press, talking up his form this season, then there’s less tension there too. But if the club don’t offer him the kind of contract he’s after, we may see a repeat of the form of last season when he was unhappy. The player knows his next contract will likely be his last big one in Europe, with the possibility of him going to the States towards the end of his career for a big pay day, but is definitely open to the idea of joining one of United’s rivals. But if he doesn’t sign a contract with United, he knows he will likely be tied to the club until he’s nearly 30 and past his peak, making him a less desirable option for a top club.
Rooney may very well see out his career at United, may become the club’s all time top scorer, but neither party is delighted by the prospect. For me, it doesn’t make an awful lot of sense to make Rooney the league’s best paid player. It would show our other players that behaving as he has is the best method for getting your own way. A performance related contract would help ensure we get the best out of Rooney for the rest of his time at the club. But if he’s got his eye on earning more than £250k-a-week, then any other offer might result in us being lumbered with an unhappy Rooney who doesn’t play well, still earning £1m-a-month.
But the Rooney situation has been handled very well by the club so far, so let’s hope they get it right again this time. He’s due a testimonial next summer and Rooney at his best is just the kind of player we want. The club need to find a way of keeping him performing whilst not compromising their standards. With contract talks set to be underway, we’ll soon see if that is a possibility.
Made in Manchester is available for just £5. It includes 30 articles from the country's best football writers about graduates from the Manchester United academy. Everyone who buys a copy enters a competition to win the new home shirt. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.