IF WE were to believe the innuendo rolling out of Old Trafford this week, Wayne Rooney struggles to meet the basic professional obligation of following an athlete's lifestyle, despite the weekly incentive of £250,000 to do so.
Alex Ferguson, we were told, had lost patience with Wayne over recurring fitness issues and was ready to off-load him (allegations described as "nonsense" by Fergie yesterday).
To amplify the story, some newspapers recycled images of Rooney – cigarette in hand by a swimming pool – from his honeymoon in Las Vegas (June '08). The impression given was of Manchester United's highest-paid player routinely reporting for duty overweight and under-motivated.
The story invited us to believe that, when Rooney trains poorly, Ferguson just sighs like an exasperated parent.
But surely the monitoring of players' fitness is so refined now that a footballer showing evidence of a poor lifestyle can be deemed – effectively – to be in breach of contract?
When five-year-old photographs are required to illustrate a story, it is probably wise to quickly turn the page.