A mob of around 40 people descended on Wayne Rooney’s mansion Thursday night and made death threats. The Daily Telegraph reported that United supporters were chanting “Join Man City and you die,” while The Guardian reported that protesters unfurled a “If you join City, you’re dead” banner. The protesters, who referred to themselves as ‘Men In Black’ on forums and Twitter, wore balaclavas, hooded tops and Cantona masks. Thankfully police broke up the protest, no arrests were made, and there was no confrontation with Rooney, who remained safe inside his Wilmslow, Cheshire home.
Now if Manchester United supporters want to drive Rooney away from the club, episodes like this one that happened Thursday night will do exactly that. For many supporters, they’ll be glad to see Rooney leave United after the way he abandoned the club and broke the trust and loyalty with the supporters. But the ramifications of a possible departure by Rooney on Manchester United would be immense and may be the beginning of the fall of the United empire in English football.
Love him or hate him, Wayne Rooney is Manchester United. The club needs him more than he needs Manchester United. Yes, a player should never be more important than a club, but in Manchester United’s case they need Rooney to stay now more than ever because (1) it would cost a fortune to find a player of his calibre to replace him, and (2) the man alone generates a ton of revenue for Manchester United in the form of sponsorships and shirt sales. Losing Rooney would have a dramatic impact on the club’s form and in their pocket book. He hasn’t been playing anywhere near his potential but when the player is on top of his form, he’s one of the best in the world.
After Thursday’s meeting between Man United chief executive David Gill and manager Sir Alex Ferguson, the club released a statement that no decision had been reached on Rooney. With his future in limbo, Manchester United will continue to negotiate a deal that would keep Rooney at Manchester United. But looking at both sides of the bargaining table, I don’t see Rooney backing down especially when nearly all of the cards are stacked against Manchester United and in his favor.
The only two things that Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson going for them in the negotiating is that they have the supporters and press on their side. But when it comes down to money, neither of those are an advantage. Club supporters and the press have been hung out to dry so many times in the past.
Now consider the leverage that Rooney has:
- Rooney knows that Manchester City is willing to offer him wages that are substantially more than anything United can offer,
- Manchester United doesn’t have limited riches and I don’t believe will be able to offer Rooney a huge increase to get him to sign a new contract,
- Rooney can buy out his contract next summer under the Webster ruling for £5 million,
- The longer the dispute runs, the more likely it’ll negatively impact Man United’s performances on the pitch.
The above points illustrate how vital it is for Manchester United to either negotiate a new contract with Rooney or to sell him in January for as much as possible. However, Rooney seems unlikely to move to the European continent due to his wife wanting to help his sister-in-law, who has a degenerative disease. So if Rooney stays in England, the number of clubs able to pay his wage demands can be counted on one hand. Manchester City would be the most likely candidate, but United may reject a transfer offer from City for Rooney to ensure that United remains the biggest team in Manchester.
Chelsea would be interested too but if United sold Rooney to the Blues, Manchester United may as well kiss any chance of winning the Premier League title for the next few seasons. Liverpool could try to do a swap deal for Rooney in exchange for Torres, or sign Rooney outright, but Liverpool is Manchester United’s most hated rival, so the chances of a deal happening there are slim.
The only club who could buy Rooney that wouldn’t rock Manchester United’s boat is Tottenham Hotspur. The club is on the rise under Harry Redknapp’s leadership and has no obstacle in its path that would prevent United from doing a deal with them, other than whether Spurs would be willing to pay Rooney’s exorbitant wage demands.
Whatever happens, the advantage is with Rooney. He has Manchester United exactly where he wants them. And if United doesn’t offer a significantly improved contract, Rooney has options elsewhere. Even if Rooney would move from Old Trafford, Manchester United is then forced into a situation of trying to decide whether to accept a princely sum from bitter rivals Liverpool, Manchester City or Chelsea, or accept a much lower offer from the competitive but relatively harmless Tottenham Hotspur.
No matter which way you look at it, the cards are stacked against Manchester United. And even more worryingly, they’re no longer the financial heavyweights in the Premier League. They’re unable to flex their financial muscle as they’ve done so many times in the past. And that could hint at the slow fall of the United empire, little by little, as each year passes by.