New twist in saga as Reds plan for Rooney's return
WAYNE ROONEY could return to action for Manchester United in Stockholm next month, with the unsettled forward stepping up his recovery from a hamstring injury amid growing uncertainty over his future at the club.
Despite having lodged a formal £20m offer, which was rejected, for the 27-year-old on Tuesday, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was guarded in his comments about Rooney when asked about the England player during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur.
And with United sticking to their stance that Rooney will not be sold – a position which could yet remain unmoved even if the player submits an official transfer request – it has emerged that he has begun cycling at the club's Carrington training ground as part of his rehabilitation process following the grade one hamstring strain that forced him to return from their tour of the Far East and Australia last week.
While there is no prospect of Rooney returning to United's tour party for the remaining fixtures in Sydney, Yokohama, Osaka and Hong Kong, it is understood that the friendly game against AIK Solna in Stockholm on August 6 has been pencilled in for his return to action.
Rooney has not pulled on a United shirt since making a substitute appearance against Chelsea on May 5, with former manager Alex Ferguson omitting him from the games against Swansea City and West Bromwich Albion after claiming that he had asked to leave the club.
It is widely assumed that Rooney's position at the club is now untenable, but manager David Moyes and the United hierarchy remain determined to resist all offers, particularly with no interest being shown in the player from clubs outside the Premier League.
Should he continue to be a United player beyond the transfer deadline next month, Rooney faces a lengthy rehabilitation process in the eyes of the club's supporters, with a growing majority keen for him to be sold.
Restoring Rooney to the team against Solna, three days before Rio Ferdinand's Old Trafford testimonial against Sevilla, would open up the prospect of him playing in front of a potentially hostile home support.
However, with Rooney increasing his fitness work, there is a belief within United that the club and player should proceed on the basis of 'business as usual' and that the trip to Solna should fall within his fitness programme.
United remained silent on Rooney in Sydney yesterday and Chelsea were also keen for Mourinho to steer clear of the subject during his press conference in Malaysia.
Mourinho refused to speak directly about his only transfer target, but did warn that any second-choice player at club level would be "in trouble" if they wanted to be part of next summer's World Cup.
"I think it's a crucial year for them," he said. "Many national team coaches are worried because they want players to play regularly for their clubs. You must play for me to play for you; you must play for you to play for me."
Mourinho was also asked about the attraction of playing for Chelsea.
"The most important thing in football, for players and managers, the most important thing is the passion and happiness and feeling we have for the club," he said. "We're all professional and all love our job. Whether you're a player or a manager doesn't make a difference. You are in love with the job.
"If you can execute your mission, your job, as a player or a manager, not just because you're paid for it, because it's your job, but because you can do it with happiness and passion and feeling, that's the most important thing.
"For me, in the second part of my career – and I term it like that because I have just passed 50 – the most important thing for me is the deep feeling I'm at a really special football club." (© Daily Telegraph, London)