It’s the news Manchester United fans had been dreading. According to reports, star striker Wayne Rooney has submitted a formal transfer request after an alleged bust-up with manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
The 24-year-old was left on the bench until the 70th minute in Saturday’s 2-2 draw against West Brom, and failed to inspire United to all three points in the 20 minutes he was on the pitch, despite the vocal home support vehemently chanting his name.
It’s believed that the out-of-sorts Rooney is keen to force a move from Old Trafford in January after falling out with the Red Devils manager. Last week the England international publically contradicted Ferguson over an ankle injury which was thought to have kept him out of several matches, stating that it had not been a problem at any stage of the campaign, risking the wrath of his notoriously fiery boss in the process.
And the United manager’s decision to leave Rooney on the bench at the weekend, in favour of Javier Hernandez, was a tell-tale sign that words had been exchanged behind closed doors.
If reports are to be believed, then the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and fierce rivals Manchester City have all been put on red alert by the news that Rooney is unsettled.
Although Manchester United played down suggestions that the player wants to quit, both Ferguson and David Gill will be probed about the issue at an intriguing press conference this lunchtime.
Just last week it was revealed that negotiations over a contract extension had hit a snag between Rooney and his current employers – adding further fuel to the flames that the United No. 10 is no longer on speaking terms with Ferguson.
However, with just 18 months left on his current deal, United could consider selling Rooney if the price is right. Like former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo, it’s expected that only an astronomical sum of money could tempt the Premier League side into selling their prized asset.
Various figures, ranging from £60 million to £75 million, have been bandied around in recent days, but despite the potentially huge transfer fee, it would still come as a bitter blow to the United faithful, who have consistently backed the former Everton forward since he arrived as an 18-year-old in 2004.
Few would have predicted that Rooney would want to leave the club just 11 months on from stating how keen he was to emulate the likes of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville, by remaining at the club for the rest of his career. After scoring 34 goals last season, the striker was undoubtedly content to stay at Old Trafford.
But following a disappointing World Cup, newspaper allegations soon surfaced plunging Rooney into further scandal. No longer was Rooney lighting up the Premier League with breathtaking performances and goals; the Croxteth-born striker began the season a shadow of his normal self.
And against the Baggies it was yet more of the same. In the brief time he had on the pitch, Rooney was seen shirking challenges, misplacing passes and failing to make his presence felt in the manner he usually would. It was another display – in a growing list – of a player clearly discontent with something.
Although the club or player are yet to confirm the worst, it now seems an inevitable matter of ‘when’ he’ll leave the club in acrimonious circumstances – not ‘if’.