Manchester United has moved to draw a line under the Wayne Rooney contract affair, with the striker appearing on in-house channel MUTV today. Stopping short of the promised apology to supporters and disingenuously claiming that he always wanted to stay at the club, Rooney now says he will be at United for the long-term.
In one of the most patronising interviews ever conducted by MUTV – dubbed Pravda by supporters for its Soviet-esque approach to ‘news’ – Rooney says he will now become a role model to United’s younger players.
Bizarrely, Rooney also claims that Old Trafford’s reaction to his return was “brilliant,” despite audible jeers heard ahead of the 25-year-old’s introduction against Wigan Athletic on Saturday.
“It was a great feeling, obviously having been out for a long time and the issues that have gone on over the last few weeks,” Rooney told MUTV.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about the reaction from the fans but overall I thought the reception was brilliant and all I want to do is get on the pitch and score goals.
“I can understand the fans frustrations with the contract negotiations, how it happened in the public eye which made it more difficult. But at the end of the day, the main thing for myself and the club was that we managed to agree that deal.”
Shortly after Rooney signed the new deal, manager Sir Alex Ferguson promised a public apology would be forthcoming. It’s a promise broken by the player, with the controversy now “swept under the carpet” according to left-back Patrice Evra.
During protracted contract negotiations in October Rooney said that United had failed to assure him the club could continue to attract leading players. In a statement the striker questioned the Reds “ambition” at a time when debt has cut into Ferguson’s transfer spending.
But Rooney angered fans and players by airing his views in public before eventually signing a new five-year £180,000 per week deal. Not least because knowledge of the £260,000 per contract offered by Manchester City was widespread though the football community.
Indeed, Rooney today rubbished reports that the new contract is simply a precursor to an eventual move to City or elsewhere in the coming summer, with United having protected its asset and Rooney substantially increasing his income.
“I’ve heard from different people that I’ve agreed a new deal so that the club can agree a higher price for me to join a different team somewhere along the line,” he added.
“But that’s a load of rubbish. I’ve stayed a new deal to here. My long-term future is at Manchester United.
“I’ve always made it aware that I wanted to stay at this club. I had my concerns and voiced my opinion but it went from there.
“I’ve said it before my long-term future is here at United. I want to help the younger players in the way Giggsy, Scholesy and Neville have helped me.”
However, Rooney now leaves himself open to both ridicule and accusations of hypocrisy after the player’s management team widely briefed media of his desire to leave United in the build up to a very public dénouement to contract negotiations last month.
Not least the statement, released just two hours before United’s fixture with Bursaspor, which questioned the club’s ambition. After all Rooney put his name to the statement, which was designed to create maximum exposure for the player’s ’cause’.
In today’s scripted MUTV interview, Rooney also risks further insulting supporters by placing himself in the same bracket as Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, who have appeared more than 1500 times for the club between them. After all, not only was Rooney quite prepared to sign for City but has been widely accused of using prostitutes, been pictured smoking and is known to drink to excess.
Indeed, lifestyle issues are believed to be part of the reason United sent the player to train at Nike’s headquarters in Oregon earlier this month. The striker has suffered serial ankle problems since being injured against Bayern Munich in March and performed poorly for club and country in the intervening eight months.
However, the Rooney now believes his fitness levels are returning, after training full-time in the US and for the past 10 days at Carrington.
“My fitness is coming back,” said the striker, who has now scored for United in open play since March.
“I went away for a week to the States to work on my fitness which I thought was just what I needed, to get away and get my fitness up.
“I’ve come back and trained well with the lads and I was happy to get 30-35 minutes on Saturday. The manager has said I’m going to play tomorrow against Rangers so I’m just looking forward to that.
“I went to the States with a guy from the Man United medical team to work on my fitness training and it was really intense working from nine in the morning to six or seven at night.
“I wanted to make sure that when i returned to team I was fit and ready not that it would take for a five weeks to get back into games.”
Indeed, a strong run of performances from the now fit striker will likely win over many United fans, fickle as supporters are.
Yet, in the month since Rooney last started for United he has earned more than £1 million from his lavish new contract. It’s more than many fans will earn in a lifetime, making the player’s attempt to airbrush the less savoury aspects of his recent behaviour all the more unpalatable to many supporters.
Perhaps fans cannot expect an apology for what is essentially a business transaction between employer and employee. Yet this is an outrageously wealthy young man, fattened on the money paid by supporters at the turnstile.
For that, at least, United fans surely deserve both the truth – which Rooney patently did not offer today – and a nod towards remorse for his behaviour, which has bordered on obnoxious in recent months.
It is seemingly unlikely from a yet another cosseted, arrogant and ultimately unaccountable multi-millionaire player.