The rumours started back in August, but until the last few days, nobody had enough reliable information to stand them up. But now even Alex Ferguson is coming clean: Rooney is going, and most likely sooner rather than later, if Manchester United are to get their payday from selling.
Why does a footballer with a 150K a week contract ready to sign want to up sticks and go? Ferguson says there hasn’t been a falling out, something he does not normally see fit to point out: players that stay at Man U are by implication on good terms with the boss, and those that are not are moved on in short order.
Which may explain why Ferguson garnered some sympathy from the press pack after yesterday’s statement. Players don’t leave his club unless he says so. That even applied to Cristiano Ronaldo: although the Portuguese was always going to leave for Real Madrid, the deal did not happen until Ferguson decided to allow it.
And he is clearly not minded to allow Rooney to walk away and leave Man U with a lack of firepower, despite the player not scoring from open play for several months. But the player is out of contract at the end of next season, so push will come to shove when the transfer window reopens.
The rumour mill suggests that Rooney is headed for the blue part of Manchester: City are now the money club in the city. But do they need him? Manager Roberto Mancini may have his hands full getting his current squad to gel, without yet another big money buy having to be fitted in.
Moreover, Mancini brooks no dissent: Rooney would find him if anything even less forgiving than Ferguson. And Wazza’s smoking and binging wouldn’t find favour with a manager from Italy, where drunkenness is less socially acceptable than in the UK. And that constraint would apply equally if Rooney went to play his football in Spain.
Both Real Madrid and Barcelona have been linked with the player, and Real boss José Mourinho is already at work on the mind games. But here is another manager who won’t accept a player who by the age of 24 is still on the cigs and the sauce – and that is before the occasional tabloid revelations.
Rooney will have to accept that, if he wants to keep shaking the money tree, he will have to change his lifestyle and his attitude – wherever he plies his trade.