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Saturday February 22, 2014 MYT 7:02:02 AM
Saturday February 22, 2014 MYT 7:02:02 AM
by ed osmond
LONDON (Reuters) - Manchester United's season of turmoil received another huge lift when England striker Wayne Rooney committed his future to the Premier League champions on Friday.
Languishing seventh in the table after a stuttering campaign under new manager David Moyes, United's prospects of turning things round improved significantly when Rooney signed a four-year contract extension with the Old Trafford club.
Close to leaving in 2010 and wooed strongly by Chelsea last year, the 28-year-old Rooney has been in excellent form, dispelling doubts about his fitness which surfaced under former manager Alex Ferguson last season to score nine league goals.
It was widely expected that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho would revive his bid to recruit Rooney at the end of the campaign but the former Everton forward has decided to try to write his name into United folklore by breaking Bobby Charlton's club scoring record.
"This is definitely something I would like to achieve," Rooney told the United website (www.manutd.com).
"If I managed to do it it'd be something I'd be very proud of. My aim is always to score and create as many goals as possible, so if I can continue to score regularly and break the record then I would be delighted."
Rooney has netted 208 goals for United in 430 games, 41 fewer than England World Cup winner Charlton, and his continuing presence at Old Trafford will be a relief for Moyes who made another important move by signing Spain midfielder Juan Mata from Chelsea last month.
Rooney, who reports say is now the highest paid player in the Premier League, has won five Premier League titles with United since joining from Everton in 2004 as well as the 2008 Champions League and Club World Cup, and two League Cups.
"They've just put their money where their mouth is by bringing in Mata, now it's time to re-build the team around these key players and get back towards the top of the Premier League," former England midfielder Jamie Redknapp told Sky Sports.
"The important thing is that he's staying. At the moment there's only four or five in that United squad who David Moyes thinks 'you're the type of player I want' - and Rooney is one of those."
With Mata and Rooney signed up, Moyes can turn his attentions to the further rebuilding which is so obviously required as he struggles to qualify United for next season's Champions League.
Central defender and captain Nemanja Vidic is leaving at the end of the season and his long-time partner Rio Ferdinand is also likely to move on.
Moyes has made no secret of his desire to improve the full back positions and central midfield remains an area of weakness.
The United manager was in the stands to watch the Arsenal v Bayern Munich Champions League match on Wednesday and the performance of the German side's Toni Kroos should have reminded Moyes of the lack of a driving creative presence in the Manchester club's midfield.
Rooney's decision to commit his future to United could increase the chances of Robin van Persie leaving the club.
The Dutchman was instrumental in helping United win the title last season after joining from Arsenal but he has struggled with injuries recently and Moyes could decide to offload him.
It is difficult to accommodate Van Persie, Rooney, Mata and Adnan Januzaj in the same team and by allowing the former to go, Moyes would open up the prospect of Rooney leading the line with Mata as a roving central No. 10 and Januzaj out wide.
The United manager has plenty of issues to ponder in the remaining three months of the season but the retention of Rooney is a huge boost as he continues his rebuilding task.
Experience will be in short supply when Vidic, Ferdinand and, possibly, Patrice Evra leave the club and Moyes needs proven United warriors like Rooney if he is to turn things round.
(Editing by Mark Meadows)
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