- Associated Press - Friday, October 22, 2010

LONDON (AP) - Saying “this is where I belong,” Wayne Rooney ended a week of speculation about his future Friday by changing his mind and signing a five-year contract with Manchester United.

Only days after announcing he was prepared to leave the club he joined in 2004 because it was not aggressive enough in acquiring players, the star England striker said he was persuaded to stay following talks with manager Alex Ferguson and the club’s American owners, the Glazer family.

The contract extension makes him the highest-paid player in team history and keeps him at United until June 2015.

“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.

One of the most turbulent weeks in United’s recent history began when a “shocked” and “bemused” Ferguson said at a news conference Tuesday that Rooney _ the team’s most marketable asset since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid last year _ wanted out.

Rooney responded Wednesday by detailing his concerns with United’s strength and saying he had not been given assurances by chief executive David Gill about the club’s future.

But the change of heart came after talks Thursday and Friday involving Rooney, his representative Paul Stretford and the club’s hierarchy. Ferguson, Rooney stressed, was key.

“They’ve convinced me this is where I belong,” Rooney said. “I said … the manager’s a genius and it’s his belief and support that have convinced me to stay. I felt I had to get my point across and we finally came to an agreement.”

Ferguson signed Rooney six years ago for then more than $40 million. Rooney helped the club to Premier League titles in 2007, ‘08 and ‘09, and played on the team that won the Champions League in 2008. He was England’s player 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.”

Gill believes keeping hold of Rooney is a “real statement of intent.”

“We’ve made sure we’ve retained one of the best players in world football,” he said.

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.”

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