'Rooney not for sale' insists Moyes as Mourinho stirs up transfer talk
Jose Mourinho has spoken publicly of his admiration for unsettled Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney.
The Chelsea manager, who intends to sign a high-profile centre-forward this summer, made his comments at a press conference here; two hours later, in a different part of the Thai capital, David Moyes reiterated his insistence that United would not sell the player. "Unless I was speaking double Dutch, I think I've said Wayne Rooney is not for sale," Moyes said.
Mourinho, who enlivened his appearance by stumbling onto the dais at the Shangri La Hotel, appeared more sure-footed as he openly admitted to liking Rooney "very much" shortly before Moyes spoke at the Rajamangala National Stadium ahead of his first game in charge of United today against a Singha All-Star XI.
While Moyes diplomatically refused to engage in verbal hostilities with Mourinho, opting instead to give the Portuguese the benefit of the doubt in terms of the motivation behind his comments, the Scot was nonetheless determined to underline his insistence that Rooney would not be sold.
Chelsea and Arsenal are keen to sign Rooney, who has yet to comment publicly on claims by Alex Ferguson that he asked to leave United this summer.
The player returned to England on Thursday for treatment on a hamstring injury.
"People are entitled to talk about good players. I'm getting asked plenty of questions about Wayne and I'm sure Jose has been asked about lots of players as well," Moyes said. "But again, I'll keep repeating myself: Wayne is a Manchester United player and he will remain that. Jose said the same thing: he doesn't like to talk about players at other clubs. He did, but it does happen."
Having spoken highly of Rooney last month during his unveiling as manager at Stamford Bridge, Mourinho said yesterday that he expected to field more questions about the England striker. But rather than play down his interest, Mourinho admitted it would be out of character for him to deliver a false impression of his view of Rooney and distinctly failed to dismiss the prospect of luring him to Chelsea.
"It is a tricky question because, from the ethical point of view, I cannot speak of players of other teams," Mourinho said. "But you know me, it is not my kind of character to speak with hypocrisy and I speak what I think and he is a player I like very much. I cannot say much more than that but, being fast and direct, I like him very much, but he is a Manchester United player."
With Moyes revealing that Rooney's hamstring injury would keep him sidelined for two to three weeks rather than the month that had initially been forecast, the player is likely to be involved in pre-season games against Solna, Sevilla and the Community Shield match against Wigan ahead of the Premier League opener at Swansea on August 17.
The friendly against Sevilla at Old Trafford for Rio Ferdinand's testimonial on August 9 would see Rooney play in front of the United supporters for the first time since Ferguson's claims – disputed by the player's camp – that he had asked to leave.
But when asked whether the uncertainty over Rooney would be lifted by the player speaking publicly to clarify his intentions, Moyes refused to urge the forward to address the issue in the public arena.
"I think I've really covered all the things on Wayne," Moyes said. "You must not forget that Manchester United is a football club, a team, and not about an individual. In lots of ways, I'm only interested in the team. I will answer questions about Wayne, but I think some of the questions are just reverting back to things I covered last week."
While the Rooney situation remains unresolved and with no incoming signings to discuss – Moyes insisted "we are on with targets and happy with how things are going" – Mourinho arrived in Bangkok with Andre Schurrle, Marco van Ginkel and Mark Schwarzer already added to his squad.
Efforts to sign Rooney and Napoli forward Edinson Cavani continue, with interest also in Aston Villa's transfer-seeking Christian Benteke, but Mourinho insists he is happy with the progress already made by his club this summer.
"Everyone knows that the club was following Schurrle for a long time before I joined," Mourinho said. "When I was faced with the situation that Andre was not far from being a Chelsea player, I gave the last push because I like him a lot.
"Marco is one of the best prospects in European football just now, we were very close in the last U-21 championships and we have no doubts he has top potential.
"Mark is what we need, not just because he is my player, but because we need protection, motivation and security and Schwarzer is very good for that. The Premier League is his habitat."
Chelsea begin their pre-season tour by facing the Singha All-Stars next Wednesday before playing further games in Malaysia, Indonesia and the United States. (© Daily Telegraph, London)