Wayne Rooney has been considering a future away from Manchester United since May.
The England striker has thrown the club into disarray by telling them he will not sign a new contract and plans to find new employers after his relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson deteriorated irreparably.
Rooney has been contemplating a move abroad since the end of last season and has been keeping his options open in light of serious interest from Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Sources close to the player claim that United were desperate to open contract negotiations at the end of the last season but that Rooney was in ‘no rush’ to commit his long-term future to Old Trafford.
Rooney’s current deal expires in the summer of 2012 and although United were willing to make him the highest paid player in the club’s history by offering him £150,000-a-week, he was determined to hold out for more money after his sensational form last season.
The 24-year-old spent most of the summer delaying the Old Trafford hierarchy as they attempted to open talks over a new deal. Negotiations were originally scheduled to take place in May but Rooney told the club he wanted to concentrate on the World Cup, after which he told United chief executive David Gill that he need a holiday before sitting down to discuss a new deal.
United eventually opened contract talks with Rooney and his representatives in mid-August, three months after originally planned, but were confident that convincing their talismanic striker to sign a new deal would be a matter of course. The club were convinced the apparent ambivalence from Rooney’s camp was nothing more than a negotiating tactic and that he would be blown away by their financial offer.
At the time, Rooney felt happy in Manchester and was willing to spent the rest of his career at Old Trafford, but he was well aware that he held all the aces and was in complete control of his own destiny after recording his best ever tally of 34 goals last term.
Rooney’s attitude towards a new contract could be seen as the root of tensions between himself and Ferguson which exploded following damaging newspaper allegations in September that he slept with a prostitute.
The England international, who signed from Everton for £25.6 million in 2004, was believed to be infuriated by Ferguson’s hardline response to the scandal in which the Scot dropped his talisman and cited an ankle injury.
When Rooney openly defied Ferguson last week by revealing that he had never been injured and had been training freely all season, his relationship with his manager had reached breaking point.
Ferguson has moved on United greats such as David Beckham, Ruud van Nistlerooy and Jaap Stam after personal clashes, but always on his own terms.
This time, Rooney has made the decision that there is not room for both him and Ferguson at the club and will now actively consider the options he has to get his career back on track. Real Madrid and Barcelona are the leading contenders for his signature but local rivals Manchester City are also expected to make an audacious move in January.
Rooney has been in the worst form of his career this season as his troubles off the pitch have effected his game. He has not scored from open play since the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final against Bayern Munich in March and has scored just once in United colours this season, from the penalty spot against West Ham.