ALEX FERGUSON insists there would not be a problem with Wayne Rooney had the Manchester United striker's form been as good last season as it is now.
Ferguson has refused to withdraw his claim Rooney expressed a desire to leave Old Trafford, even though it has been established the England man never submitted a formal transfer request.
It is probably a good job for United that he didn't, given he has been one of the few players to hit the heights on a consistent basis this season.
Relations between Ferguson and Rooney had collapsed to such an extent it is impossible to imagine the former Everton man would have stayed at United had his long-time manager stayed.
But Ferguson insists the breakdown would not have occurred now.
"Do you think I would drop Wayne Rooney if he was playing the way he is now?" said Ferguson. "Absolutely no way. We want to see him in the form he is in now all the time."
Rooney went to see Ferguson, for what was intended to be a private chat, after growing tired of being played out of position.
Yet, according to the former United boss, speaking in London yesterday at the launch of his autobiography, Rooney's form had not been good enough to warrant a place in his team.
"Wayne came to see me and said he was disappointed at not being played in his normal position," said Ferguson.
"I could understand it. At the time Wayne was not playing well enough."
The issue was made worse due to the fact Rooney had already requested to leave once, in 2010, when he slapped in a transfer request that questioned United's ambition.
One of the players Rooney argued Ferguson should be signing was Mesut Ozil, who has guided Arsenal to the top of the Premier League.
"As I explained to Wayne, leave the signing of players to me," said Ferguson.
"Ozil was not on our radar. I said that to Wayne at the time."
After all, Ferguson watched Ozil play in a pre-season friendly at Fulham in 2010, missing a well-publicised annual open training session at Old Trafford to raise funds for the United Foundation.
Nevertheless, it was what Ferguson feels was a "sorry episode" for Rooney given within 48 hours he had signed a new contract that made him one of the Premier League's best supported players.
"It portrayed him as a money man who had dropped his grievance the minute his salary was raised," said Ferguson.
"There was a mixed reaction from the players."
What the United boss has never wavered in is his belief Rooney takes time to get fit.
It is why he gave the green light for David Beckham to link up with England at the 2002 World Cup, but had serious reservations about Rooney doing the same thing four years later when both had suffered broken metatarsals.
"When England took Wayne to the World Cup after his metatarsal injury it was ridiculous," said Ferguson.
"He was never going to be fit. He wasn't ready for that kind of competition. I had strong reservations that Wayne Rooney should not have gone simply because he is harder to get fit."
Ferguson does concede that, at his best, Rooney is one of England's very best.