England striker Wayne Rooney has told Alex Ferguson he wants to walk away from Manchester United, leaving the manager “shocked and bemused” by the decision.
Days of intense media speculation came to a head spectacularly yesterday as Ferguson addressed the media on the eve of the Champions League match against Bursaspor today.
Ferguson said the 24-year-old Rooney would miss that match with an ankle injury, having been taken off on a stretcher at the end of training yesterday, then confirmed that the striker wanted to leave.
“We are as bemused as anyone can be,” Ferguson said. “We can’t quite understand why he would want to leave.” Ferguson said he was told about it by United’s chief executive David Gill.
“It was a shock,” Ferguson said. “I couldn’t believe it because in other discussions as early as March he intimated that he wanted to stay, he wanted to sign a life contract, he was happy at the club, he was at the best club in the world. I had a meeting with him. He intimated to me in his own way that he wanted away.
“I told him, ‘The only thing I want from you, Wayne is to honour the club’s position and traditions and behave like a proper professional and we’ll try to see it through. There was an offer there, it never got into financial discussion, but I know David was prepared to offer him a contract that would be difficult to better elsewhere.”
Ferguson bought the then 18-year-old Rooney for £25,6 million pounds ($40,40 million) from Everton six years ago.
His current contract expires in June 2012, when he could walk away on a free transfer. That means unless he changes his mind and signs a new deal, United may be forced to listen to cut-price offers before then to recoup something. Ferguson, though, has still not given up hope of Rooney signing a new deal.
“We still have to keep the door open for him simply because he’s such a good player,” the manager said. “We’ve done nothing but help him since he’s come to this club in terms of his private life and other matters.
“I can’t answer any questions about why he’s doing it — the player is adamant he wants to leave.”
Ferguson also addressed what he called the “mystery area” of Rooney’s ankle injury.
“He got an ankle injury in the Rangers game,” Ferguson said. “He was hobbling about before halftime, he confirmed it himself with his interview with Sky (television). I spoke to him before the Sunderland game and my idea, based on the fact he wasn’t playing that well, was to leave him out giving him a 10-day recovery so that he could play for England.
“My hope was that by playing for England at Wembley he could recapture his form and we could kick on. His entry into the mixed zone (to talk to reporters) at Wembley has created the next stage.
“He said he wasn’t injured. That was disappointing as we knew well he was carrying an injury. He went for a scan that showed a minor defect and he had treatment.”
Rooney helped United win Premier League titles in 2007, 2008 and 2009 and the Champions League in 2008.
He was in brilliant form for most of last season but after injuring his ankle in a Champions League game at the end of March, he did not score another goal and was way below his best form on his return and for England in the World Cup. —Reuters