Reds star lines up £200,000-a-week Eastlands deal
Wayne Rooney is ready to pursue an incredible transfer to Manchester City after being told that Manchester United have no intention of making him the highest-paid player in English football.
Rooney has left his Old Trafford future hanging by a thread after informing United's hierarchy last week that he would not commit himself to a new long-term contract.
But United are in no rush to restart contract talks with the England forward after being stunned by his wage demands. The former Everton player, whose current deal expires in June 2012, is understood to be angling for a pay hike to £200,000 a week.
Rooney's deteriorating relationship with manager Alex Ferguson has done little to encourage either side to back down and, despite the menacing threat of City's mammoth wealth hanging over the club, United are refusing to cave in to Rooney's demands.
Although moving from United to City would result in Rooney being vilified by the red half of Manchester, sources within the United camp have been made aware of the player's readiness to contemplate such a move. The possibility of Rooney, who turns 25 on Sunday, swapping red for blue is understood to be an open secret among his team-mates at United.
City remained coy last night on the prospect of luring Rooney to Eastlands, but they will not struggle to raise the funds for the transfer fee or wages.
Barcelona's financial problems would appear to compromise their hopes of signing Rooney, while Real Madrid general manager Jorge Valdano yesterday dismissed the likelihood of a move for the striker.
There are reservations among some influential figures at City over a move for Rooney, based on the player's off-field troubles. However, the opportunity to prise United's marquee player from Old Trafford is likely to override any issues over Rooney's suitability to become part of the Eastlands project.
However, the threat of losing their star player to their closest rivals has yet to prompt Ferguson or United chief executive David Gill into a concerted effort to bring Rooney back on side. Ferguson is expected to reveal his position on the player's future at a press conference today.
Senior figures at United spent yesterday considering what to do after waking to headlines reflecting Rooney's refusal to continue talks over a new contract.
Discussions between Ferguson and Gill and transatlantic phone calls between Gill and the Glazer family, the club's Florida-based owners, took place both before and after a lunchtime press conference held to publicise a £1m charity initiative with Unicef, at which no questions on Rooney were allowed. However, Gill did address the issue by insisting that "we will make a statement at the appropriate time".
The Glazers have made it clear to Ferguson that he has full control over Rooney's future. Should he sanction the player's departure, the Scot will be in control of both the timescale and the destination.
Although Ferguson has yet to publicly disclose his intentions, the prospect of losing Rooney is understood not to be troubling the 68-year-old to the extent of the disappointment he felt when accepting that Cristiano Ronaldo should be allowed to leave United for Real Madrid in June last year.
Ferguson's anger at Rooney's response to being omitted from the United team in recent weeks has driven a wedge between the two men, but there remains an outside chance that a rapprochement could take place before the transfer window opens in January.
That prospect is unlikely and the manager issued a thinly veiled criticism of Rooney when discussing the club's work with Unicef.
"Our work with Unicef has made some of our players, particularly the younger ones, realise what the real world is like," he said. "It's been an eye-opener and a real education for them. It's taught them to understand how lucky they are, being in the environment they've been brought up in and the cocooned life they've got, in terms of their wealth and things like that.
"That's very difficult with modern-day players because most of them are wealthy and in a very comfortable situation. So it's wonderful to watch them make that transition to changing their attitude."
Ferguson has insisted in the past, however, that "if you have to decide what to do, there is no decision to make because you will make the wrong decision".
The United manager appears to have already made his mind up on Rooney and it would be no surprise if he brushed the situation off today by simply declaring that the player wants to leave. If that happens, Ferguson must then decide whether to allow him to make the three-mile journey to Eastlands. (© Daily Telegraph, London)