Wayne Rooney was elevated into the ranks of the Premier League's super-rich class yesterday with a new contract at Manchester United understood to be worth around £200,000-a-week, including bonuses, in a remarkable end to his stand-off with Sir Alex Ferguson.
Both sides projected a united front yesterday after negotiations brought Rooney back from the brink to sign a contract that puts him on a par with Chelsea's top earners such as John Terry and Frank Lampard, who earn basic wages of around £170,000 a week plus extras; if not Yaya Touré at Manchester City, whose wages rise to £221,000 a week in April.
Ferguson said that he had secured a personal apology from Rooney yesterday morning for the player's public insubordination on Wednesday when he criticised the club in a statement for failing to attract top players. "He apologised to me this morning and the players and I think he will do that with the fans, which is important," Ferguson said.
But Rooney stopped well short of issuing a public apology in a subsequent interview with the club's in-house television station MUTV. Having first said in a joint statement issued with the club yesterday that he had to "win them [the fans] over" again with his performances, Rooney failed to say the word "sorry" for a second time in his broadcast interview.
"I am sure the fans have been upset over the last few days with everything they have heard in the media," Rooney said. "I care for this club, I want to be here, that's important to know and I want to continue being successful at this club. Some fans mightn't take to it too quickly. They might take time but I am going to be giving the same as I always do ... 100 per cent on the pitch."
After a week of internal strife unprecedented at United for its public nature, the club were eager to play down the notion that either side had come out top in negotiations. But behind the scenes there was astonishment at the coup Rooney and his agent, Paul Stretford, have been able to pull off, having virtually burnt their bridges with that incendiary public statement.
Even Rooney admitted that he believed his relationship with United was over after Ferguson spoke openly about his despair at the player's refusal to sign a contract on Tuesday. "Once it all came out it looked as if there was nowhere to go, that was it," Rooney said.
However, it would appear that Ferguson's decision not to abandon hope proved decisive. Rooney said: "The manager made it clear the door was still open for me to sign and that is when I spoke to my agent and I said, 'Let's go in and sit down with them and try and resolve it and get the deal done.' We went in and spoke to the manager, the Glazers and David Gill [chief executive] and I am really pleased that we managed to sort it out."
Gill was first told by Stretford on 14 August that Rooney would not be signing a new contract, one week before negotiations were due to start. For that reason United were never able to put a formal offer to the player. However, the preparatory work that had gone into those talks, including an improved salary, projections of earnings, bonuses and splits of commercial rights had already been calculated by United. That meant that by the time Rooney finally decided to sanction the reopening of talks yesterday – two months to the day after they were due to start – Gill had all the paperwork ready to close the deal quickly. All that remained to be done was to increase the original offer to one that came closer to the £200,000-plus-a-week deal that Rooney and Stretford had played for in the first place.
What precisely changed Rooney's mind might never be revealed. Certainly, he got more than he would have been first offered had he opened talks in August but not as much as if he had held out on his original threat and been sold to City in January. The mob of United supporters that milled around outside his home on Thursday night cannot claim the credit either – Rooney had already agreed to sign the deal by then.
As diplomatically as he could, Ferguson effectively claimed a loss of nerve on Rooney's part when faced with the prospect of leaving United. "He has realised the enormity of Manchester United. Sometimes when you are in a club you can look outside. That's a fact. You seem to think that something is better elsewhere. Once all that publicity came out about the impact and the response about [sic] how big Manchester United is that resonated with Wayne quite a lot.
"He has had second thoughts and he wants to stay ... I always feel there is a quality in a person when he says he is sorry and realises he has made a mistake. That happens. Particularly with young people and I admire that."
While the United manager can claim a victory of sorts in Rooney's apology to him and the players, there is no doubt that the player pushed his manager and the club further than anyone has done in the past. Despite public insubordination that would not be tolerated in any other individual, Rooney has been given a reprieve that proves Ferguson's rules are not quite as uncompromising as thought.
It is understood that Rooney was spoken to by Ferguson and senior players about what they regarded as the perils of being badly advised by Stretford, his extremely hard-nosed agent. The relationship between Stretford, a lifetime United fan, and his client, however, shows no signs of weakening and both stand to become even wealthier out of this deal.
The relief at finally keeping Rooney out of the clutches of City, Chelsea or Real Madrid prompted more uncharacteristically open musings from Ferguson on his continuing sensitivity to criticism, especially in the press.
"The older I get, the more demand I make on myself to win things because the criticism bites deeper," he said. "There is always that time when you are not doing well, the reaction from the media, so we have to guard against that. Sometimes my job is to keep us off the front page. You can only do that by winning."
Talking heads: What they said
I'm delighted to sign another deal at United. In the last couple of days, I've talked to the manager and the owners and they've convinced me this is where I belong.
I'm signing a new deal in the absolute belief that the management, coaching staff, board and owners are totally committed to making sure United maintains its proud winning history – which is the reason I joined the club in the first place.
Sir Alex Ferguson
He apologised to me this morning and the players and I think he'll do that with the fans, which is important because we've all been hurt by the events of the last couple of days.
Sometimes, when you're in a club, it can be hard to realise just how big it is and it takes something like the events of the last few days to make you understand. I think Wayne now understands what a great club Manchester United is.
It was just a story that for me, from the start to the end, was of no interest to me. When I saw the headlines I just turned the page. I was never really interested in that story because what happened with Wayne Rooney happens to every club, every year – plenty of times.
unitedrant (United fan blogger)
Rooney treated club, fans and players with total disrespect...big challenge for him to win people over now.
I'm not surprised. Manchester United are happy to keep a fantastic player. I think that Rooney did a fantastic job for Manchester United and, in the future, I think he will do the same.
Clayton Blackmore (former United player)
He knew he had to apologise and everything will be swept under the carpet. We carry on where we left off a month ago.
I'm not surprised. If you read between the lines, Rooney wanted to stay and Manchester United wanted him. You don't know what happens behind closed doors.
Rooney has taken the right decision in his development. Contracts do not mean a lot since Bosman.
Rio Ferdinand (on Twitter)
It was never in doubt in my mind tweeps, wazza is Man utd through and through there's no way I could have seen him playing for another club, defo not a prem club anyway.
Mickey Thomas (former United player)
They're going to be absolutely delighted. They want him back on that pitch scoring goals. It'll be all forgotten.
Timeline: How the Rooney saga unfolded
Tuesday 12 October
After missing Manchester United's previous two matches, Rooney plays 90 minutes for England against Montenegro. However, he fails to impress in the goalless draw.
Wednesday 13 October
It emerges that Rooney has contradicted Sir Alex Ferguson, claiming he has had no problems with his ankle all season, despite his manager's assertions to the contrary.
Saturday 16 October
Rooney starts on the bench for Manchester United in their 2-2 home draw with West Bromwich. He comes on after 71 minutes but is unable to salvage the game.
Sunday 17 October
Reports appear of Rooney's intention not to sign a new contract at Manchester United. The club claim it is "nonsense" that he could be sold.
Press speculation increases. Suggestions surface that Rooney may be considering a January move to United's local rivals, Manchester City.
Ferguson confirms reports of Rooney's request to leave, claiming he is "dumbfounded" and accusing the striker of not showing respect.
Rooney publicly announces his desire to leave, claiming that a meeting with chief executive David Gill had failed to assure him over the club's ambitions.
Banners criticising Rooney appear at Old Trafford during United's win over Bursaspor. Ferguson says the club hope to put the matter to bed within 24 hours.
Ferguson and Gill meet to discuss the club's next move. A statement says "a number of meetings have taken place" and urges fans to remain patient.
A group of masked United supporters gather outside Rooney's Cheshire house, holding a banner depicting the message: "If you join City you're dead."
Rooney signs a new five-year contract, citing Ferguson's "experience" and "passion" as the reason for his U-turn.
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