Fergie to let Rooney go
Ferguson not afraid to make hard decisions over rebellious star players
The Christmas bust-up between Wayne Rooney and Alex Ferguson has run so deep that it could lead to the player's departure as early as the current transfer window.
One source close to Manchester United yesterday suggested that the pair's working relationship has been seriously damaged -- a situation that has raised fears at Old Trafford that a move could indeed happen this month.
This belief is provoked by strong feeling around the club that Ferguson believes he has lost control of Rooney.
The timing of this latest deterioration in trust between the all-powerful manager and the star player is horrendous for the club as they contemplate the possibility that by the end of this month they could, on current form, be out of touch with all of the game's major prizes.
Despite the ravages of injury afflicting his team, it appears that Ferguson is ready to wash his hands of the protege in whom he has shown such massive faith, and patience, since signing him as a teenager from Everton in 2004.
That is the degree of his anger after Rooney appeared so plainly to be in no condition to train after a St Stephen's Day night out.
It had plainly not abated when he called Rooney off the field at Newcastle on Wednesday night, clearly disgusted by an abject performance from the England forward at a time when United desperately needed to keep pace with neighbours Manchester City at the top of the Premier League -- and in tomorrow's FA Cup derby clash.
Ferguson's sense of betrayal can only be heightened by his memory of the acrobatics he was required to perform just over a year ago when Rooney, with his private life and football form apparently in meltdown, demanded a transfer amid rumours that City were ready to take him across town on increased wages.
Whatever his private feelings, Ferguson held the line with Rooney, agreed to an improved contract in return for a lukewarm apology to the fans and no immediate improvement on the form that had made his World Cup appearances for England so disappointing -- especially after a brilliant club season which had won him the Player of the Year award.
Ferguson also had to endure a public lecture from Rooney about United's lack of ambition.
A sharp improvement in Rooney's form at the end of last season and a burst of scoring before Christmas that followed another run of mediocrity might have encouraged Ferguson to believe that his most talented player was in the mood for another tour de force in the second half of this season.
That optimism severely dissipated, however, when Rooney appeared at the training ground unfit to train -- and then crisis was compounded by not only Rooney's failure to perform at Newcastle but also his indifferent demeanour.
The situation conjures memories of Ferguson's previous reactions to any sense that his authority has been too deeply challenged, by David Beckham's lifestyle, an autobiography by Jaap Stam or the controversial comments of Roy Keane. Rooney's Christmas rebellion would certainly rank high in such a category of defiance.
A United official last night said: "There is no issue between the manager and player following the discipline administered by the club. The issue has been dealt with and we have moved on."
United and Rooney also issued a combined statement denying the striker is about to leave.
"We can assure all United fans that the manager and the club are committed to Wayne Rooney and Wayne is committed to the manager and the club.
"The player and the manager have always had, and retain, the utmost respect for each other and look forward to working together in the coming seasons.
"Any suggestion that United and Wayne Rooney are to part company is complete nonsense."
Ferguson, meanwhile, also dismissed speculation that he is considering signing Frank Lampard in the transfer window.
"You are not going to tell me Chelsea would sell Frank Lampard to United in January. Do you really believe that?" Ferguson said. "There is no foundation to that.
"Chelsea are like us. They want to do something. What can you get in January? The players we'd like we can't get. If the alternative is to sign a second-rate player, we don't want to do that." (© Independent News Service)