Rooney apologises and assures fans 'I would never have joined City'
Wayne Rooney has taken a significant step towards repairing his damaged relationship with Manchester United and the club's supporters by not only apologising for his recent contract dispute, but also insisting he "definitely" would not have left for Manchester City.
Almost five weeks after Alex Ferguson had insisted that Rooney would apologise to United's unhappy supporters for the "hurt" caused by his week-long stand-off with the club over his initial refusal to commit to a long-term contract, the 25-year-old finally lanced the boil that had threatened to scupper any possible rapprochement with his critics on the terraces.
Rooney's status as the darling of Old Trafford has been tarnished since he publicly admitted last month his readiness to leave United because of his concerns over the club's ambitions.
The spectre of City looming in the background with a lucrative offer for Rooney to defect to Eastlands merely heightened the sense of betrayal felt by many United fans, to the extent that the player was subjected to banners and city centre graffiti which warned 'Join City and you're dead'.
But although senior figures at City sensed an opportunity to prise United's star asset from Old Trafford, Rooney insists he would not have crossed the Mancunian divide had he followed through on his decision to leave.
"Everyone is saying that I was definitely going to Manchester City. Believe me, if I had gone, it wouldn't have been in England, I'd have gone abroad," Rooney said.
"I feel like I have apologised to the fans, but everyone keeps saying that I haven't. If that is the case, then I apologise for my side of things.
"I have made my point clear since I signed my contract that I am committed to this club for the long term and I want to be successful with this club.
I spoke with the manager and (chief executive) David Gill and obviously they reassured me that the club was moving forward. From that point on, it took maybe two or three hours to negotiate my contract and sign it."
Rooney added that "it could have" been the biggest mistake he ever made had he left United. "You see so many players leave this club and not do so well, so I am just delighted I have stayed."
Aside from the turbulence caused by his contract stalemate, Rooney's campaign has been disrupted by a persistent ankle problem, plus the off-field distraction caused by allegations that he slept with prostitutes.
His match-winning penalty against Rangers at Ibrox on Wednesday, which confirmed United's qualification from Champions League Group C, was only his second of the season.
The form which earned Rooney 34 goals last season on his way to winning both Footballer of the Year awards has not been reproduced since he suffered an ankle injury against Bayern Munich last March. But the England forward insists it is unfair to judge his performances this season until he regains full fitness.
"I don't think I have consistently had a run of games this season," he said.
"People are saying how bad I have been playing, but I don't think I have played that many games for my form to have been a disaster.
"With everything that has happened, it all goes a bit overboard, but I know myself I have been through patches before when I haven't played well and I have come through them. I know, 100pc, that I will come through this one.
"Mentally, I have been OK. I am mentally strong, but because the football has not been going well and the other things that have happened, everyone has put it down to not being mentally strong enough. But I am. Obviously the most important thing for me at the minute, though, is to play and score goals.
"I can get back to the standard of last season. I am a confident person and I think I can do it. I am just happy it (the contract dispute) is all over now. I want to look forward."
Rooney's appearance against Rangers was only his fourth full 90 minutes for United this season. Ferguson sent the player for a week of intensive training at Nike's worldwide HQ in Portland, Oregon, earlier this month because of concerns over his fitness.
The decision to send Rooney almost 5,000 miles from Old Trafford raised eyebrows, but the player himself concedes that the trip has proved invaluable in boosting his fitness and sharpness.
"Going to the States has certainly helped me a lot because, normally when I have been injured, it has taken me four or five games to feel I was back to full fitness," Rooney said.
"I would feel it in the last 20 minutes of matches, but against Rangers, I felt good in the last 20 minutes." (© Daily Telegraph, London)