ALEX FERGUSON has admitted Manchester United have been hurt by the staggering turn of events this week – but feels Wayne Rooney deserves credit for acknowledging his mistakes.
Rooney has apologised to his manager and team-mates for the negative headlines he brought to Old Trafford this week.
It was virtually the final chapter in a story which will be remembered for a long time by those who witnessed it, let alone those at the centre.
The end finally came with official confirmation that the 24-year-old had signed a five-year contract extension.
It commits Rooney to United until 2015 and makes him the highest-paid player in the club’s history, with a new wage believed to be in the region of £150,000 (€169,000) a week.
What preceded it was jaw-dropping, right from the first claims of Rooney’s unrest on Sunday, through two emotional addresses from Ferguson, split by claims from the player that his club no longer matched his ambition.
Finally came the closure Ferguson had demanded on Wednesday evening, the seal being applied 24 hours after he predicted, but the outcome satisfying for all concerned.
“It has been a turbulent few days,” Ferguson said. “We have been hurt by events but Wayne has apologised to me and the players. He will do so with the supporters too.
“I always feel it is a quality in a person when they say they are sorry and realise they have made a mistake.”
Not for the first time in his 24 years at United, Ferguson has emerged victorious from the bleakest of situations. His heartfelt comments on Tuesday left no-one in any doubt how personally he was taking the prospect of Rooney’s departure.
The next day he was rather more forcefully stressing how good he was at improving young players, outlining his current method of team building at a point where it seemed Rooney was bound for Chelsea or, even worse from a United perspective, Manchester City.
The words were spoken in front of the media. They were meant for Rooney’s digestion as well, with the addition on both occasions that his “door was still open”.
On Wednesday night, it appeared there was no chance of Rooney giving it the faintest of taps. Yesterday, he burst straight through.
What changed in those 36 hours? Ferguson thinks he knows the answer.
“All the impact of what has been happening over the last few days has made Wayne realise what a big club Manchester United is,” he said.
“Sometimes when you are enclosed in a club like ours, where no-one gets into the training ground, you forget how big the club is.
“It is only now, when Wayne has seen the global impact, he realises this is the biggest club in the world. It is important to remember that.
“You see the record since he has been here,” Ferguson added, challenging the previously aired Rooney claim that the club no longer shared his objectives. “He has won European Cups, the World Club Cup, three league titles, League Cup.
“In football it is very difficult to maintain success for four years or more. We hit the crossbar last year. We finished second by one point.
“Instead of suffering to a degree where we are going to collapse as a club, we have to kick on. We always have to do that.’’
There have been suggestions some in the United squad have been left unimpressed by Rooney’s conduct, and the implied comment they are substandard. Yet Ferguson insists there are no bridges to build.
“There is no problem with the players or myself,” he said. “We are doing what is best for Manchester United.
“We have important issues ahead, starting with Stoke City on Sunday.
“We are lagging behind Chelsea and we have to start making up ground quickly. We can only do that with everyone on board, with no-one jumping ship. Then we can push on and see the real Manchester United.”
Meanwhile Stoke boss Tony Pulis believes his team is better equipped now than in previous years to take on the might of Ferguson’s team.
“We think we have improved as a team,” Pulis said. “We’ve got more in the team to cause people problems, so it is just whether we can perform on the day to our maximum – and hoping that we get a little bit of good luck and good fortune, and that United are maybe just off it a little bit.”
Injury rules Rooney out for three weeks
WAYNE ROONEY’S joy at signing a new five-year deal has been tempered by the confirmation that an ankle injury will keep him out for three weeks.
Rooney has been hampered by a persistent ankle injury that he picked up against Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League last term.
The Manchester United striker was carried out of training on Tuesday due to the complaint.
And with his future now seemingly resolved, Alex Ferguson has confirmed that his talisman will be out until the middle of next month.
“Wayne will be out for three weeks,” he said.
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