Sunday 22 October 2017

Phelan drops hint about Ronaldo move

Cristiano Ronaldo left Old Trafford for Real Madrid in 2009
Cristiano Ronaldo left Old Trafford for Real Madrid in 2009

Chris Bascombe

Former Manchester United assistant manager Mike Phelan has indicated that both Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo could be on the move in the next few weeks.

Phelan admitted that Rooney – who is attracted by a £20m move to Chelsea – may be seeking a fresh challenge away from Old Trafford.

And, in a radio interview, Phelan was also intriguingly non-committal when pressed on whether ex-manager Alex Ferguson had left a deal in place to lure Ronaldo back to Manchester from Real Madrid.

Phelan offered only a "no comment" to the question, giving the firm impression that he was privy to information, despite ending his ties with the club after the appointment of David Moyes.

The futures of Ronaldo and Rooney could dominate the next month of transfer activity, with the England striker's next destination the most pressing concern for new manager Moyes.

Phelan acknowledged the doubts as to whether Rooney would remain with the champions, but he insisted: "Wayne is at the greatest club he could be at, so why would you want to jeopardise that unless you want a fresh challenge and you don't think that challenge is being met at Manchester United.

"He might have hit a little bit of a blip in certain performances and then it's easy to find fault with that, but he isn't the first player to do that and he won't be the last.

"You just have to nurse them through it and, hopefully, he responds to that little bit of nursing. But sometimes you have to crack the whip with him, because they're men, not children.

"You have to get as much out of them as you can and I think Wayne has responded as well as he feels he can do for Manchester United," added the former United assistant manager.

Rooney and Moyes will shake hands at Manchester United's Carrington training ground today as the new manager begins in earnest his attempts to persuade the 27-year-old that his future lies with the club.

Manager and player met around four weeks ago for an initial encounter which allowed Rooney to get across his frustrations about his last season working with Ferguson.

Today's meeting will come on a day when many players return to meet Moyes for the first time.

Rooney has his pre-season fitness assessment this afternoon and, since Moyes has the other players to meet individually, it is unclear whether he will have time to schedule the follow-up talks the two agreed to when they parted company for their summer holidays a month ago.

A meeting is scheduled for tomorrow between Rooney, his agent Paul Stretford, Moyes and United chief executive Ed Woodward, though that may not provide an instant resolution before Moyes' first public press duties as United manager.

The two sides may need to hear what the other has to say and disperse to consider their positions before returning for a second group discussion.

Phelan said that Moyes will want to talk to Rooney without any of the player's entourage around as he tries to persuade him to stay.

"I think he would want to talk to Wayne Rooney and just Wayne Rooney the football player," Phelan said. "The rest of it is part of Wayne's back-room team, as such."

Moyes is likely to impress on Rooney that by staying at Old Trafford he can become an all-time legend and the club's top goalscorer – he is only 52 goals behind Bobby Charlton on the all-time United scorers' chart.

Going elsewhere may be more lucrative for him and will certainly be so for his representatives, but Rooney is unlikely to establish the same status in another any other club, where he would be starting again, with all the uncertainties that entails.

Also weighing in United's favour is the fact that Rooney's family are settled in the north-west of England and his wife Coleen is understood to favour being close to her family

He is, however, attracted to the prospect of playing for Chelsea under Jose Mourinho.

There is a feeling at the highest level of Old Trafford that senior players have a vital role to play in winning Rooney over to the argument that he will not find a better environment to flourish than United.

WEIGHS

United are in no doubt that the reaction of the club's fans to Rooney also weighs on the player's mind, after his conversation two months ago with Ferguson that the former manager characterised as the forward putting in a transfer request

If Rooney can be persuaded to consider staying, public assertions are expected from Moyes and Woodward, smoothing over Ferguson's suggestions, when omitting Rooney from his own last home game as manager, that Rooney had demanded a transfer.

There is more than just the Rooney conundrum facing Moyes as he gets down to work

Further pursuit of Leighton Baines, which would shove Patrice Evra towards the exit door, must be decided upon, while clarification on Thiago Alcantara's intended move from Barcelona may also be required after the midfielder's cryptic weekend tweet underlining his love for the Catalan giants.

With links to Benfica defender Ezequiel Garay and PSV Eindhoven midfielder Kevin Strootman to yield any concrete developments, Moyes will be given little time for a honeymoon period before proper pre-season work begins tomorrow. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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