Rooney now staying
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson shook his head on Tuesday as he struggled to comprehend that Wayne Rooney wanted to leave "the best club in the world".
Not one for baring his soul to the media, Ferguson stunned a news conference with a heart-felt monologue lasting several minutes describing his shock and bewilderment at finding out in August the striker wanted to quit Old Trafford.
Looking every inch a man who had been carrying around that burden for some time, a serious-faced Ferguson told how the England striker had gone from wanting to spend the rest of his career at United to looking for the exit within a few months.
The one thing he could not say was why.
"We are as bemused as anyone can be. We can't quite understand why he would want to leave," Ferguson told a news conference, where the first sign that something was brewing came at the start when reporters were told the "Wayne issue" would be dealt with after questions on Wednesday's Champions League game.
Those half-hearted questions over, Ferguson consulted his notes as he confirmed reports the striker would not sign a new contract.
Rooney's contract expires in 2012 and talks had been going on last season over a new deal but Ferguson said he had then been told on Aug. 14 by United chief executive David Gill of the striker's decision.
"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."
He denied arguing with Rooney but they are clearly at odds over whether he is injured with Ferguson speaking at length about what he called the "mystery area" of his ankle problem.
The manager has been resting an out-of-sorts Rooney because of the injury which he picked up in a Champions League game against Rangers last month but after playing for England earlier this month Rooney denied being injured.
"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," said Ferguson.
Rooney, who has scored once this season and only from the penalty spot, will miss Wednesday's Champions League Group C match at home to Bursaspor after a United spokeswoman said he had been taken off the training field on a stretcher earlier in the day with the same ankle complaint.
Ferguson looked into space and put his finger to his chin as if stuck in his own world trying to understand why the player whom he bought six years ago as an 18-year-old from Everton would want to abandon a club who had supported him so well.
He said he had given him advice on matter from his finances to his private life and seemed to be after some kind of payback.
"You look after players and that creates a tremendous loyalty," said Ferguson, who paid 25,6 million pounds ($40,40 million) for Rooney.
"We don't understand why he would want to leave. No one can deny it's one of the most successful (clubs) in British football ... (it has) a fantastic history, a great stadium, great training arrangements.
"I can't answer any questions about why he's doing it ' the player is adamant he wants to leave."
With Rooney barely off the back or front pages in recent months, following revelations about his private life, Ferguson later told MUTV that he had doubts over whether the player had taken notice of his plea that he did not want "any nonsense".
He said the door was still open for a deal to be reached but Rooney could have plenty more offers to consider if any of the reports linking him to teams such as United's big-spending neighbours Manchester City and Real Madrid come to fruition.
Outside Old Trafford, fans were coming to terms with the news that one of their best players could soon be leaving, with student Siobhan Burke telling Reuters: "It'll be a sad loss, we'll be losing a star and we could struggle without him."
Others were hoping Rooney, who helped United to Premier League titles in 2007, 2008 and 2009 and the Champions League in 2008, did not move across town to City to join ex-team mate Carlos Tevez.
"Last season he was a hero, now he'll be a Judas like Tevez," said scarf seller Samuel Simpson.
"Since it's been announced, I've been selling the Rooney scarves at half price."