Rooney Deal Too Big A Gamble For United

Giving Wayne Rooney a five-year £300,000 contract shows an incredible amount of faith by Manchester United and David Moyes. Nick Miller thinks it's misguided...

Last Updated: 17/02/14 at 09:19 Post Comment

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And so, it looks like the rumours are true.

While Manchester United have, at the time of writing, denied that Wayne Rooney has signed a new contract, the details of it have been so effectively and widely leaked by whoever might want them leaked (and we can't possibly imagine who that would be), that an announcement of a four or five-year deal worth £300,000 a week should be confirmed soon.

Once you've wiped the vomit from your chin, for regurgitation should of course be the natural reaction at such a sum, consider why Manchester United are paying this much money to their striker.

United seem to think that Rooney represents a symbol, a player they cannot possibly part with because of what it might say about them. They appear to think Rooney's departure would represent weakness, a sign that they are no longer the top dogs in English football, something that should be rather more apparent from their sugar paper-thin midfield and league position.

To say United are keen to keep Rooney would be quite an understatement. If the size of this deal isn't enough to convince you, the stories about the lengths United went to in order to avoid even discussing Rooney during the Juan Mata negotiations with Chelsea are extraordinary. Daniel Taylor wrote in The Guardian that Ed Woodward refused to talk directly to his Chelsea counterpart because he knew the subject of Rooney would come up, preferring to use intermediaries to thrash out the deal. This coming after a summer in which they refused to entertain the possibility of selling Rooney to Chelsea because they thought it would paint them as weak, submitting to the superiority of a domestic opponent.

That all might be true, but it seems strange to so bloody-mindedly hold onto a player on a point of principle - especially such an expensive player. Really, United should have sold Rooney last summer when his value was a little higher, but if Chelsea were really the only serious customers, United's no-domestic sale policy took over.

United might argue that it would cost more to replace Rooney than stick with him, given transfer fees and the assorted hassle with having to find a forward when so much work needs doing on the rest of the team, but to use some rather crude maths - say they were to give any replacement a mere four-year, £200,000-a-week deal, that's around £36million saved to put towards the new man. The financial case for this Rooney deal doesn't look quite so good with those sort of figures.

In any case, it looked like they had already replaced him in January. While those that have said Mata can and should only be played in the centre exaggerate slightly, given that he has played wide before and it shouldn't be too hard to incorporate him, Rooney, Adnan Januzaj and Robin van Persie in the same team (at least for some games), the purchase of the Spaniard would have made more sense if it was with a view to selling Rooney. Mata is best deployed in Rooney's position, and with Januzaj's continuing development and the consensus that he'll eventually end up in the middle, United are pretty well stocked in that number ten role.

A slightly troubling thought that must have gone through the heads of many United fans this weekend is whether Rooney's new contract, combined with the recruitment of Mata, means the stories about Van Persie wanting out are true. There is of course an element of 2+2=5 thinking to that, and United's determination to keep Rooney was made clear well before these rumours emerged, but the thought may fester, nonetheless.

Giving Rooney such a lucrative and lengthy contract shows that United regard him as what the Americans would call a 'franchise' player - one that a team, indeed a whole club can be built around. Chuck in the captaincy (which bafflingly seems to mean a lot to footballers) and treating Rooney as some sort of transfer consigliore, and you have an awful lot of faith placed in one player. But is he good enough to justify that? The answer surely must be no.

Rooney has of course been better this season, looking sharper than last term and his goals earlier on in the campaign certainly dug them out of a couple of holes. However, his recent form has just confirmed what we always knew about Rooney: that he is a streaky player whose form can fall off a cliff with little warning. He has just one goal in his last nine starts (against Hull), five since the start of November and just three against teams in the top half all season.

A record of 11 goals in 25 starts this term is good, but deserving of being ranked among the top few players in the world? Of course not. The idea of committing to paying Rooney £300,000 a week when he's 33 is little short of ludicrous.

There are those that might argue Rooney's form has been negatively impacted by his new manager's tactics, that he is perhaps being asked to do too much, but if he really was as good as this contract suggests, this would not be such a factor. The question is not whether Rooney is a good player, because he very clearly is, but whether he is good enough for this much faith to be placed in him by United.

The answer is no, and when you remember that Rooney's previous actions suggest he could turn on his club at any minute and demand to leave, should something displease him, this deal represents an enormous gamble for Manchester United and David Moyes.

Nick Miller - follow him on Twitter

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