Wayne Rooney has signed a lucrative new deal with United. Source: manutd.com

Rooney makes extension official, ensuring Manchester United’s future has a focal point

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Reports of Manchester United’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Sure, it will be a struggle to even make this year’s Premier League top four.

But as David Moyes prepares this team for a charge back up the table next season – and let’s be honest, that has to be a big focus at this point – Wayne Rooney’s autograph on that packet of paper is the most important piece to next year’s puzzle.

Rooney tweeted a picture of him and David Moyes at a round table with the signed contract in front of them, sealing the heavily-speculated extension, reported to be worth $500,000 and keeping the 28-year-old at Old Trafford until 2019.

With reports earlier in the season that a lack of Champions League qualification could see Rooney out the Manchester United door, his signature ensures that he will be around next season for the fight to return Manchester United to their rightful place.

“I’m happy everything is now finalized and I can carry on concentrating on my football,” Rooney said via his official website.

No kidding. With reports in the last 12 months all over the spectrum, including but not limited to the player requesting a transfer on numerous occasions, the media swirling is over…for now.

Our very own Joe Prince-Wright called Rooney the “heartbeat” of the Red Devils, and there isn’t a more accurate way to describe the Liverpool-born striker’s importance to the squad.

If Rooney had chosen to ride out his contract and depart, it would have qualified as a disaster for the club, requiring Moyes and company to essentially start from scratch.  No matter your stance on giving Rooney the money he received, there is plenty of evidence to illustrate his vitality to the club.

“I know the direction that this club is going in,” Rooney said when asked about the effect the club’s Champions League status had on his decision.”If we don’t make it this season then we will come back stronger and claim a Champions League spot next season.”

He has nine goals and 11 assists this Premier League season – 11 and 19 across all competitions – and has carried the team with attacking stars like Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck injured at various points during the year.

Now, let speculation begin on the future of the Manchester United armband. With Nemanja Vidic departing at the end of the season, and Rooney sure to stick around, there will be plenty of calls for the 10-year Old Trafford veteran United’s next captain.

Before all that starts, United has completed one small step for this year’s chase, and one giant leap towards a future return to glory.

Premier League AT HALF: Arsenal fights back, Hull City on top

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal (L) and Francis Coquelin of Arsenal (R) celebrate after Theo Walcott of Arsenal (not pictured) scored Arsenals first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Stoke City at the Emirates Stadium on December 10, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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Goals and controversial penalty decisions are a big part of Saturday morning’s quartet of Premier League matches, all of which are at the break.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

Arsenal 1-1 Stoke City

Joe Allen took an elbow from Granit Xhaka inside the 18, and Lee Mason awarded a PK that Charlie Adam converted to give the visitors an early lead. But Theo Walcott scored his 100th goal as a Gunner off a classy Hector Bellerin cross to make it 1-1 before the break.

Burnley 2-1 Bournemouth

The Cherries will have to dig out of another hole this week, and it all began with Jeff Hendrick‘s phenomenal opener. Fellow Irishman Steven Ward scored an economical to goal to double the lead.

But Ryan Fraser continued his fine December with an assist on Benik Afobe‘s goal before halftime.

Hull City 1-0 Crystal Palace

Robert Snodgrass drew a penalty with a pretty easy grass grab, and the Tigers have a

Swansea City 0-0 Sunderland

Not much cooking at the Liberty Stadium.

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Koeman: “Nervous” Everton has a problem after another loss

WATFORD, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Ronald Koeman manager of Everton arrives prior to the Premier League match between Watford and Everton at Vicarage Road on December 10, 2016 in Watford, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
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One win in 10 for Ronald Koeman‘s Everton has the Dutchman on the hot seat.

Koeman seems to be clawing for air after the Toffees’ latest setback, a 3-2 loss at Watford.

The loss puts the Hornets ahead of Everton on the PL table, and — while unlikely — it’s a mathematical possibility that the Toffees could be a bottom half team by the end of the weekend.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

That’s a brutal development for a club expected to challenge for a European place this season.

Here’s Koeman:

“I see a lot of similar problems in the team. The team is too much reactive. Of course it’s maybe a lack of confidence, but if you start the game well, 1-0 up, you need a bigger belief in the team and not going back and defending, and nervous, and not enough ball possession. In my opinion that’s a problem.”

A big problem with that? It can be put down to the manager. Is Koeman in trouble already?

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VIDEO: Hendrick scores incredible volley from distance

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Jeff Hendrick, take a bow.

Burnley’s Republic of Ireland international midfielder pulled off a stunning piece of skill on Saturday to put the Clarets ahead against Bournemouth.

[ STREAM: Every PL game online ] 

A long ball forward was flicked on to Hendrick and he took a stunning first touch to tee himself and then settled himself before spanking a volley into the top corner.

Sensational goal from Burnley’s club-record signing.

Click play on the video above to watch it.

Messi’s latest goal dares you to count the touches (video)

PAMPLONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 10:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the La Liga match between CA Osasuna and FC Barcelona at Sadar stadium on December 10, 2016 in Pamplona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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There’s a danger in observing Lionel Messi on a week-by-week basis, and it has a lot to do with how he makes greatness look routine.

So while it’s easy to dismiss yet another mazy dribble through a defense, one of those “Frogger” style with calm-but-vicious cutbacks, try to consider everything that goes into Messi’s second goal against Osasuna early Saturday.

[ MORE: Watford 3-2 Everton ]

On first look, you might count 9 touches for Messi starting with his right-footed collection of the ball. But move to the slow motion replays, and recognize the truth: Often Messi is letting the ball do the work for him, essentially moving the duo closer to goal while he used his preferred left foot as a must-respect threat.

That he does it in such traffic and at full speed is incredible. It’s literally one of those goals in which a linguistic luminary like Ray Hudson would have trouble over-emphasizing the greatness.

Messi now has 11 La Liga goals in 12 matches, and 22 in 19 overall.

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