LONDON — Wayne Rooney ended a week of intense speculation about his future Friday by changing heart and signing a new five-year contract with Manchester United, saying "this is where I belong."
Only days after criticizing United for its lack of ambition in the transfer market and threatening to leave the club he joined in 2004, the England striker said he was convinced to stay at Old Trafford following intensive talks with manager Alex Ferguson and the club's American owners, the Glazer family.
"I'm signing a new deal in the absolute belief that the management, coaching staff, board and owners are totally committed to making sure United maintains its proud winning history, which is the reason I joined the club in the first place," Rooney said in a statement.
Rooney's contract extension ties him to United until June 2015.
One of the most turbulent weeks in United's recent history began when a "shocked" and "bemused" Ferguson revealed at a news conference Tuesday that Rooney, the team's talismanic figure and most marketable asset since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid last year, wanted to leave United.
Rooney responded Wednesday by releasing a statement, detailing his concerns with United's squad strength and claiming he had not been given any assurances by chief executive David Gill about the club's future.
But after a series of talks over Thursday and Friday involving Rooney, his representative Paul Stretford and the club's hierarchy, the striker went back on his decision. Ferguson, Rooney stressed, was key to his change of heart.
"In the last couple of days, I've talked to the manager and the owners and they've convinced me this is where I belong," Rooney added. "I said … the manager's a genius and it's his belief and support that have convinced me to stay."
Ferguson signed Rooney six years ago for 26.5 million pounds (then more than $40 million) and has seen the player establish himself as one of the world's leading strikers. Rooney helped the club to Premier League titles in 2007, '08 and '09, and was a member of the side that won the Champions League in 2008. He was named England's Footballer of the Year last season after scoring 34 goals in all competitions.
"I said to the boy that the door is always open and I'm delighted Wayne has agreed to stay," Ferguson said. "Sometimes, when you're in a club, it can be hard to realize just how big it is and it takes something like the events of the last few days to make you understand.
"I think Wayne now understands what a great club Manchester United is. This is a big day for Manchester United."
Ferguson said he and Rooney's teammates had received an apology from the striker.
"We have all been hurt by events of the last couple of days," Ferguson said. "Now we just want to move on."
Rooney's reportedly strained relationship with Ferguson has been heavily scrutinized this season.
The player attracted negative headlines at the beginning of last month when he became the subject of newspaper allegations that he had repeatedly cheated on his then-pregnant wife with a prostitute.
Ferguson benched Rooney for the next game against Everton, the club who sold him to United, to shield him from fan abuse but he has had limited playing time since, his form dipping to such an extent that he has only scored once for his club this season — from the penalty spot against West Ham.
Ferguson said an ankle injury has forced Rooney to miss several games, comments the striker publicly contradicted last week after playing in England's European Championship qualifier against Montenegro. Ironically, Rooney is currently out with an ankle injury sustained in training on Tuesday.
Rooney said he now plans to get back in United supporters' favor when he returns to full fitness.
"I'm sure the fans over the last week have felt let down by what they've read and seen. But my position was from concern over the future," Rooney said. "It's up to me through my performances to win them over again."
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