Rooney cut to size in United’s game of brinkmanship
One wondered just how much Manchester United would take before a line was finally drawn. Briefing and counter-briefing summer long, the club holding Wayne Rooney to the lucrative five-year contract signed the last time the player wanted out; the striker’s people manoeuvring the media game to only marginally credible effect.
So it comes to something when United’s manager and executive vice-chairman stepped into the debate within hours of each other over the weekend. These were significant developments too, with United making the club’s position clear: Rooney will not leave on his terms and if necessary, the Reds will allow the player’s contract to run down.
Behind the scenes, Rooney’s people seemingly continue to press for a move away. Indeed, the positions of both parties has been greatly clarified since David Moyes officially took up residency at Old Trafford on 1 June. It is now clear that United have little intention of being manipulated by the player for a second time in three years – at least not while the player has so much to prove.
Rooney, by contrast, has a dwindling will to remain in Manchester – at least not until there’s a new contract to negotiate.
So there was little surprise when United’s new chief Edward Woodward dismissed the notion that a deal is there to be struck. After all, United hold the cards this time around; the aces being the player’s dire recent form and Robin van Persie’s excellence. No longer United’s star turn, Rooney is in a far weaker position than during his ‘October Revolution’ in 2010.
“I am not sitting down with any player on an extension and there is no trigger date in the diary,” 40-year-old Woodward told Sky Sports.
“No contract renewals are being discussed. Would we be afraid to run a contract down? Of course not. I’m not surprised clubs like Chelsea and Arsenal want Wayne but he’s not for sale and we won’t be selling him.”
Moyes got in on the act, implicitly relegating Rooney to the position of van Persie’s understudy – further weakening the Englishman’s hand. Not, of course, that events on the field hadn’t conspired to make this so in any case.
And with United’s senior management seemingly in unison, Rooney’s options have narrowed – potentially for 12 months – a prospect that may be unpalatable to the 28-year-old given the player’s awe-inspiring sulk towards the back-end of last season.
“Overall my thought on Wayne is, if for any reason we had an injury to Robin van Persie, we’ll need him,” said Moyes as United left Thailand for the second leg of the club’s summer tour in Australia.
“This is a chance for me to get Wayne right back to where he was. I want to be able to play the two of them, I want to use Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernández as well. Maybe in a year’s time we might have to look at something else.”