Wayne Rooney's Manchester United career may have reached a point of no return after Alex Ferguson claimed the forward did not want to play in his farewell game at Old Trafford following the club's decision to reject his transfer request.
The 27-year-old, who watched the 2-1 victory against Swansea from an executive box after being omitted from the matchday squad, was jeered and whistled by some supporters as he collected his Premier League winners' medal following the game.
Persistent rumours of Ferguson and Rooney's relationship breaking down in recent months were given added weight by the pair sharing a curt handshake following the medal presentation.
It is understood that Rooney asked for a transfer during a meeting with Ferguson two weeks ago. The arrival of David Moyes as Ferguson's successor could ultimately save Rooney's United career should the incoming manager opt to hand the forward – who he sold to United for £27m in August 2004 – a lifeline at the club.
But despite the insistence of Ferguson and United that Rooney will not be sold, the player's future is likely to be a pressing issue for Moyes in the wake of his omission against Swansea and the reaction of a vocal minority of supporters.
"I don't think Wayne was keen to play, simply because he has asked for a transfer," Ferguson said. "I think he wants to think it through in his mind and I think that is a good idea.
"We have refused it (transfer request). I think he should go away and think about it again, but it's not my decision now."
With Rooney becoming a peripheral figure in recent weeks since being dropped to the substitutes' bench for the Champions League second-round tie against Real Madrid in March, Ferguson claims that the player's stance is fuelled by his fall from grace.
But he insists that Rooney would not be in this position had he played to his best this season.
"He wasn't happy about being brought off in games this season," Ferguson said. "Wayne Rooney in top form wouldn't be taken off."
"But we are not going to let him go. I just think he is a maybe bit frustrated about being taken off once or twice in the last few weeks."
While sources close to the Rooney camp claim the player is open-minded about remaining at the club once Ferguson is replaced by Moyes, the new manager will have the final say, rather than Ferguson.
But former United captain Gary Neville has warned the Liverpudlian that he risks making a mistake if he leaves the club.
"He has not been himself over these last couple of months, you can see there is something wrong," Neville said. "However, if he has seen what has happened here today, that reception before the game, as he was sat up there in that box and looked around him, he's 27 years of age, there is nowhere to go from here, believe me.
"I've seen players join Real Madrid and other great clubs in Europe and they always want to come back.
"So I would hope that Rooney settles down, gets his head down and brings himself back. Players have ups and downs, it's a rollercoaster if you play for this club.
"You struggle mentally at times, he might not think that but he will be going through a difficult moment, he needs to come away and play for England in these next couple of weeks then have a summer off and hopefully he will get his head back to being a United player.
"He has an agent by the way and he has got friends and they need to give him advice that this is the only club he should be playing at," Neville added.
His sentiments were echoed by former United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel.
He said: "This is the biggest place in the world to play football and I think the new manager can do himself a favour by first of all having a meeting with Ryan Giggs, quickly get him on board and solve this situation with Rooney." (© Independent News Service)