It's Rooney or bust for Chelsea – Mourinho
Chelsea's cash-only offer of £20m has been rejected but manager Jose Mourinho made it clear that he still thinks an agreement can be reached and the London club are expected to return with an improved offer. Asked if Chelsea would bid for any other player, Mourinho said: "No, and we won't."
Mourinho then confirmed that, in his mind, it was now "Rooney or bust" for Chelsea during this transfer window.
Those comments followed Chelsea's 1-0 win against Singha All-Stars in Bangkok and came amid a day of claim and counter-claim.
In a statement issued just an hour before Mourinho's first game as manager, Chelsea admitted that they had tabled a written offer for the England striker. There was fury, however, at claims that the proposed deal was Luiz or Mata plus £10m.
Chelsea suspected that the details were leaked by Manchester United officials in Sydney and are adamant that the two players, who are not on the club's pre-season tour of Asia and have yet to meet Mourinho, would not be leaving.
Mourinho is certain to have irritated United over the past week by publicly revealing his admiration for Rooney and there is now a theory that the Luiz-Mata link had emerged as some form of retaliation. United have made no comment but are understood to be bemused by the suggestion that they were behind the Luiz-Mata story.
There was further intrigue when United's new chief executive Ed Woodward decided to fly back to Europe from the club's pre-season tour of Sydney to conduct what has been called "urgent transfer business".
His return relates primarily to United's pursuit of Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas but it is expected that he will also address the Rooney situation. Rooney is not in Sydney with United but certainly seems to be agitating for a move after letting it be known that he is "angry and confused" by the suggestion from manager David Moyes that he is second choice to Robin van Persie.
Further talks are expected imminently between United and Rooney's agent Paul Stretford although the club's public position has consistently been that Rooney is not for sale. Woodward may still return for the Honk Kong leg of the United tour on July 28, giving him more than a week to work on the various transfer issues.
It is thought that United's position would soften should Rooney hand in a formal transfer request and an offer from Chelsea of £25m may yet be sufficient. The question for Rooney is whether he will make a transfer request with two years still running on his contract and risk losing money that could be due in bonuses.
Should United decide to sell Rooney, there would also be a clear preference to deal with a foreign club rather than strengthen one of their biggest rivals for the Premier League title.
Although Moyes is happy with his four strikers – Rooney, Van Persie, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez – an attempt to buy Robert Lewandowski from Borussia Dortmund can be expected if Rooney is sold. There is also ongoing interest in Tottenham's Gareth Bale and Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo.
Chelsea's transfer priority is specific and Mourinho claimed yesterday that there was no Plan B should he fail to bring Rooney to Stamford Bridge.
Arsenal have also made an enquiry but Rooney is thought to strongly favour a move to Chelsea, where he would almost certainly replace Fernando Torres as first-choice striker.
"This situation now is clear – nothing is a secret any more," Mourinho said. "Chelsea made an official bid. We want the player. Now it's up to Man United. The official bid is about a certain amount of money and does not involve the players in the possibility of the negotiations. Now they accept or not."
Chelsea's earlier statement had read: "Contrary to what is apparently being briefed to the press, the proposed purchase price does not include the transfer or loan of players from Chelsea to Manchester United." (© Daily Telegraph, London)