Rooney Must Prove He's Worthy of His Enormous Deal

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Rooney Must Prove He's Worthy of His Enormous Deal
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Wayne Rooney's lucrative new contract at Manchester United has been signed, as announced by the club's official website.

The much-mentioned figure of £300,000 per week (per Daily Mail) has been agreed, making Rooney's salary worth more than £62m over the next four years.

Having apparently been delayed by negotiations around image rights, Rooney and his representatives have come to an agreement with the club, and the England forward looks likely to see out the bulk of the rest of his career at Old Trafford.

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As has been much discussed, there have been two key moments in which it looked like Rooney did not want the opportunity to break Sir Bobby Charlton's all-time Manchester United goalscoring record.

In 2010, Sir Alex Ferguson confirmed Rooney's wish to leave. The Scot went on to produce a master class in media management. A volte-face was engineered and Rooney remained at Old Trafford. In an interview with TalkSPORT, he described wanting to leave as "the biggest mistake of my football career" (h/t The Independent).

It was a mistake he was destined to repeat. In 2013, in the midst of the pomp and circumstance of Sir Alex's departure, Ferguson announced that Rooney again wished to leave, triggering the summer-long saga of "Rooney-To-Chelsea" (per The Telegraph).

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David Moyes' arrival signalled a change in approach from the club toward the player. Moyes was glowing in his praise of Rooney, describing him as "world-class" (per SkySports.com).

Tactically, it has been clear Rooney is at the heart of Moyes' plans for his team. Other than brief spells in midfield, providing injury cover, Rooney has operated as a “No. 10” for Moyes, the link between Robin van Persie and the rest of the team.

It's also clear how valuable Rooney is to Moyes. Speaking at a press conference on Friday prior to Rooney penning the new deal, the United boss said, “Everybody knows how important he is, he is a terrific footballer.”

His numbers have been good, especially given his injury lay-off. With nine goals and nine assists for a side that has been performing way below its best, Rooney has certainly made a contribution this season (per ESPNFC.com).

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However, there remains a debate to be had about his role in the side and Moyes' apparent reluctance to repeat Sir Alex's pattern of shifting Rooney around the pitch to accommodate his team-mates. With Juan Mata, Shinji Kagawa, Adnan Januzaj and van Persie all capable of playing in the centre of the pitch behind a striker, Rooney's complete ownership of that role has limited Moyes' tactical options.

It may be, however, that this dedication to playing Rooney in his preferred role has been part of the charm offensive that has kept Rooney at the club. Given that being "told to play in midfield" was one of Rooney's stated reasons for wanting to leave United, Moyes' insistence on keeping Rooney happy has necessitated him being played where he wants to be played.

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If the size of this new contract and the growing inevitability that Rooney will end his tenure at United as the club's all-time top scorer leaves some United fans discomforted, it should perhaps not be hard to understand why.

Rooney has his ardent supporters amongst United's fans too, those who would point to his work rate, his long contribution to the club and his ability to do something out of the ordinary when it is needed as justification for him being rewarded with such a lucrative deal.

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It remains to be seen whether a four-year contract on astronomical wages for a 28-year-old who has twice tried to manifest a move away from Old Trafford and whose position is one of those where United have plenty of excellent options represents good value for the money. Given the size of the financial investment, at a time when Manchester United look set to miss out on Champions League football next season, it is vital for the club that this is a deal that bears fruit. 

As for Rooney, there will be those who claim he belongs in the pantheon of United "legends" and those who dispute it.

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What is for certain, in spite of the tempestuous nature of his relationship with the club, this deal ensures Rooney will be entwined in the fabric of Manchester United's history forever more.

Where he ultimately ranks is now down to the player. At £300,000 per week, he has plenty to live up to. Manchester United will hope Rooney proves he's worth every penny. 

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