Rooney injury reignites transfer talk despite denials
Chelsea's Mourinho pours fuel on fire as he says he admires the striker very much, even as United boss Moyes insists he's not for sale
Speculation over the future of Wayne Rooney mounted yesterday as the Manchester United star returned to England almost immediately after arriving in Bangkok for the club's Asian tour, and Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho admitted he admires the striker "very, very much".
Mourinho stopped short of saying he hoped to sign the unsettled Manchester United star, but his surprise exit from the United party, just days after new manager David Moyes said he was fitter than ever, has reignited the transfer talk, despite Moyes' denials.
"People are entitled to talk about good players," Moyes insisted yesterday. "I'm sure Jose has been asked about lots of players as well. I'll keep repeating myself: Wayne is a Manchester United player and he'll remain that.
"It's a blow that we've lost him [to injury]. He's been training well and looking good. He felt something in his hamstring - we double-checked it and he has a slight grade one injury. It will probably keep him out for two to three weeks. I don't see any problems with him being fit for the start of the season.
"Unless I was speaking double Dutch I think I've said Wayne Rooney is not for sale."
Mourinho was speaking earlier at the start of Chelsea's own Asian tour in Bangkok.
"It's a funny, tricky question because from the ethical point of view, I cannot speak about players from other teams," Mourinho said at a plush downtown hotel.
"But again you know me and you know it's not my kind of character to speak with a little bit of hypocrisy. I always say what I feel, what I think.
"I've always said he's a player that I like very, very much but I cannot say more than that. Being fast and direct, I like him very much but he's a Man United player."
Mourinho is seeking a striker to complement the erratic Fernando Torres and he has brought back Romelu Lukaku after a loan spell at West Bromwich Albion.
Concerns over Rooney's future were not eased by his sudden departure just hours into the United tour, announced in a two-line statement on the club website, which said he would be out for a month.
However, Rooney said on his Facebook page that it was just a "niggling injury" and "nothing to worry about".
Rooney will now miss United's friendlies in Thailand, Australia, Japan and in Hong Kong.
The injury comes after Moyes said Rooney was in his best shape in years and spoke glowingly about his relationship with his former Everton protégé.
"I have met Wayne two, three, four times," he said this week. "A lot has been said about myself and Wayne over the years, but we have a really good relationship."
Moyes added: "I will say he is training great. They are telling me it is the best shape they have seen him in for a long time."
Reports have linked Rooney with possible moves to Arsenal, Paris Saint Germain and Chelsea.
But former United defender Gary Neville said Rooney - who came close to leaving two years ago - belonged at the club, and expressed hope they would sort out their differences.
"I think Wayne Rooney and Manchester United go together," Neville said. "He has to make his own mind up. The club will have a part to play in that. One thing about United, they never panic in situations, they always do things in a controlled manner.
"Although there have been rumblings about Wayne, he has come back into pre-season without much of a fuss. I think it'll unfold in the next few weeks."