United want Rooney to stay for 'a lifetime'

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The Independent Online

Manchester United are ready to open talks with Wayne Rooney over a contract which will keep him at Old Trafford for life. Rooney is only two years into the six-season deal he signed when he completed his £27m move from Everton, yet already he has spoken of his desire to extend his stay with United.

As their catalyst and best player, United know they need Rooney over the long-term if they are to remain a credible force at home and abroad. Chief executive David Gill is also aware the England player is only currently in the second tier of earners at the club, with an estimated weekly salary of £50,000 a week. Rooney can expect virtually to double that figure when he does sign a new deal and, while Gill confirmed talks are yet to take place, United will not risk upsetting the 20-year-old by stalling longer than is necessary.

"At the moment we are concentrating on this transfer window and other matters but it is in our plans to talk with Wayne," said Gill. "It is a positive when any player says he wants to sign a contract. We will sit down and do something I am sure because it is in our interests as well as his."

Sir Alex Ferguson, about to embark on his 21st season as United manager, is unlikely still to be around when the side he is currently constructing reaches its peak. However, having already secured the futures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Giuseppe Rossi on extended contracts over the past 12 months, Ferguson realises the importance of ensuring Rooney stays as well.

"We want Wayne Rooney to stay here for a lifetime," said Ferguson. "He is a fantastic footballer. He has the energy, enthusiasm and desire to remain at the top. We have a group of good young players here and we want them to stay together for a long time."

Rooney is unlikely to figure in the final friendly against Seville today. The striker, currently nursing a groin strain, was among a quartet of England internationals to miss an open training session at Old Trafford, with Rio Ferdinand (ankle) and Gary Neville (calf) now almost certain to miss the Premiership opener with Fulham on 20 August along with Michael Carrick, who damaged ankle ligaments in Amsterdam last week.

Happily for Ferguson, Nemanja Vidic and Alan Smith were both involved in training and could be in contention for at least a place on the bench against the Cottagers. By then, United hope to have brought in a new midfielder. Villarreal's Marcos Senna appears to remain top of the hit-list, although Owen Hargreaves' name has also been mentioned.

"We have been working hard in the last week or so," said Ferguson. "We are trying to focus on one or two at the moment and hopefully something will happen."

So far, the United manager has made only two summer signings, the second of which, goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak has, for accounting purposes, only joined on loan. In reality, the Polish international has signed a four-year contract, with Ferguson believing he can provide a genuine challenge to Edwin van der Sar for a first-team spot.

Ferguson has surprised a number of supporters by making a move for Kuszczak, especially as he is set to offer Van der Sar a new one-year contract next summer and Ben Foster, named in Steve McClaren's first England's squad yesterday, has been released to join Watford on loan.

"Tomasz is ahead of Ben in terms of experience at the moment because he has played in the Premiership and been involved with his national side, which is important," said Ferguson. "He will learn a lot from Edwin. Having someone like that as a target can only aid his development as a keeper. Even so, I do see Tomasz as a live competitor for the first-team spot."

United appealed yesterday against three-match bans for Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes that could rule the pair out of the start of the Premier League season. The pair would miss a game against Charlton on 23 August, Watford on 26 August, and home to Tottenham on 9 September.

Mikaël Silvestre and Park Ji-Sung have signed contract extensions with United, until 2009 and 2010 respectively.

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