At the end of the day, it comes down to numbers. It always does.
Wayne Rooney has numbers. He now has 250 goals for Manchester United, the most in club history. He’s also scored more goals for England than anyone else.
What Wayne Rooney does not have, is the adoration of all Manchester United fans. To some he’s a hero and longstanding servant of the club. To others, he’s a player who not once but twice submitted a formal transfer request only to turn around and sign a contract that made him the highest paid player at the club.
Those contract disputes have become a sore subject for United fans, with many having never forgiven him for wanting to leave the club. But what if there’s more to the story than fans know?
That’s where numbers come in. Contract negotiations are all about numbers. The players side comes in and says “I’m worth this much to the club,” and the club hits back and says “we think you’re only worth this much.” Often they say, you’ve (only) scored X amount of goals so we’re only going to pay you Y amount of money.
That’s exactly where Rooney got screwed on both of his contract negotiations, because in both 2010 and 2013 Rooney did not have the numbers.
Rooney wanted to be the highest paid player at United, and he deserved to be. For years and years, Rooney had been the engine that made United run. During the 2007-08 season when Cristiano Ronaldo scored 42 times, United often struggled to win games that Rooney didn’t play in. He was the ultimate team player, willing to do whatever the team asked of him in order to help them win. Ultimately that screwed him out of getting the numbers.
When Rooney arrived at Old Trafford in 2004, he was a young striker. A man who did nothing but score goals. By 2007 though, it was Cristiano Ronaldo’s team. Rooney, the team player, willingly took a backseat to Ronaldo for the next two years, often being exiled out to the left wing to do Ronaldo’s work for him, which allowed Ronaldo to reap the rewards and the goals. Rooney was still unbelievable that season, displaying all the other talents besides goal scoring that make him the player that he is. When pundits discussed the best players in the world that season, it wasn’t uncommon to hear Rooney’s name right after Messi and Ronaldo.
After scoring 23 goals as a 19-year-old, everyone expected Rooney to build on that. But in the following two seasons playing second fiddle to Ronaldo (and third fiddle to Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez), Rooney scored just 18 and 20 goals in all competitions. The following year when Ronaldo and Tevez were gone, Rooney returned to his central striker and promptly scored 34 goals that season, displaying that the talent was there had United chosen to use it.
Now what if when it came to negotiating a new contract, the board of Manchester United ignored the fact that Rooney had sacrificed for the better of the team? What if they looked at the lack of goals over the two year period where United had won so many trophies (they only won the League Cup in 2010) and decided he wasn’t worth as much as he was asking for? Wouldn’t Rooney’s only leverage be to threaten to leave?
The same thing happened a few years later. After scoring 34 goals in two of the past three seasons United brought in Robin van Persie. Once again, Rooney made the sacrifice to play wherever the team needed him. Whether it was as an attacking midfielder or as a central midfielder or even coming off the bench, he was still a very important piece for the club. However, Rooney’s goals that season dropped to just 16. Once again he had no leverage for contract negotiations.
This isn’t to say this is what happened. But perhaps there is more to the story than we know. Rooney has apologized for asking to leave the club, but he could simply be apologizing for the strategy he took during the negotiations.
Rooney is now the club’s all-time leading scorer. The debate now rages around whether or not he’ll get a statue outside of Old Trafford. There are unfortunately some United fans who are against it due to the transfer demands. It’s time to move past those mistakes that Rooney made, and remember him for the goals he scored and more importantly, how he sacrificed himself personally to help the team win.