On Wednesday, Rooney said he was unhappy at Manchester United last season because former manager Sir Alex Ferguson too often played him in the midfield instead of in his preferred striker position, according to the Telegraph.
“I didn’t feel I got a consistent run of games up front,” Rooney said. “I actually felt when I played midfield I did OK, but I didn’t want to play there. I felt I deserved the right to play in my position and that wasn’t happening. I can play midfield. Maybe when I’m a bit older, losing my legs a bit, I can go back there.
“Everyone at the club knew that’s where I wanted to play. That’s why I was disappointed because I got told to play in midfield and I didn’t want to, but I’d always go in and try to help the team. There had to come a point where for my own career I had to be a bit selfish really.”
Rooney’s desire to play further up the field nearly ended his nine-year United career. Ferguson deployed Robin van Persie as a lone striker for much of the season with Rooney playing in a deeper role. Ferguson then benched Rooney ahead of United’s biggest game of the season (a UEFA Champions League game against Real Madrid in March), and reports soon emerged that he had decided to sell the United star during the upcoming summer transfer window. That set into motion a chain of events, which saw Rooney embroiled in the summer’s most-watched transfer saga after Ferguson publicly claimed that he had asked to leave the club.
In May, Rooney’s advisers told the media that he was indeed unhappy at United, and rumors claimed Rooney wanted to leave United for Chelsea. While English and European clubs were interested in signing him, Chelsea’s interest always seemed to be most concrete. The Blues made two transfer bids — worth £23 million ($37 million) and £25 million ($40 million) — in late July and early August, and new manager Jose Mourinho urged Rooney to push for a transfer, as United refused to sell.
It remains unclear exactly how Rooney asked to leave the club, but it is believed that he never submitted a formal transfer request. Rooney wouldn’t say exactly what happened during Wednesday’s press conference.
“Obviously there’s been a lot of stuff happening and people waiting for me to say whatever, but I’ve spoken to the people who matter at the club and we’ve known ourselves what we’re doing,” he said. “I’m not going to go around saying: ‘I wanted to stay or I wanted to leave.’ I’ve just got my head down and worked hard. I’ve been focused and been wanting to prove to people that I’m a top player. I wanted to prove it to myself really rather than anyone else.”
Ferguson’s retirement seems to have changed the course of Rooney’s future. David Moyes replaced Ferguson on the United bench in July, and his arrival saw Rooney step away from the exit door and back into his favored position. The move helped Rooney recover his form, and the 27-year-old says he is settled at Old Trafford once again.
“David Moyes has come in and he’s playing me up front, and I’m enjoying it,” Rooney said. “I really have been happy all summer. From the outside looking in, it might not seem like it, but I’ve been settled. My wife had a new child and I’ve been really happy and focused and I’m just delighted to be back playing and injury-free and fit.”
All this has played out against the backdrop of looming contract negotiations. Rooney’s current deal pays him around £250,000 a week and expires in 2015. It is unknown if United is willing to extend his Old Trafford career on those terms, but Rooney is ready to talk.
“You can see I’m playing and I’m happy in my football,” he said. “I’ll have more discussions with the club and we’ll see what happens from there.”
Ferguson has yet to give his side of the story. He gave a guarded response when Charlie Rose asked him about the Rooney saga last week. His autobiography comes out later this month, and it is widely expected to include commentary on Rooney’s United career. For now, Rooney’s version of events will suffice.
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