Stories have emerged claiming the 26-year-old’s relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson is broken beyond repair.
However, this has been emphatically denied by both parties.
“Manchester United and Wayne Rooney have been made aware of the theme of an article in tomorrow’s Independent newspaper,” said last night’s statement. “We have not seen the detail but 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 Manchester United and Wayne Rooney are to part company is complete nonsense.”
Rooney himself said on Twitter: “The independent are talking absolute rubbish, my future is with Manchester United and the club and I am totally committed, the manager and I have no issues and anyone who says different doesn’t know what they are talking about.”
Rooney was disciplined by Ferguson last week after he became aware of the player having a night out on Boxing Day, immediately after the 5-0 win over Wigan.
It is not believed to be the night out itself that angered Ferguson but Rooney’s subsequent performances in training. Rooney was fined, believed to be a week’s wages, and it is also claimed he was dropped for the home defeat by Blackburn on New Year’s Eve as punishment.
This has not been confirmed by Ferguson, who refused to discuss the matter at his press conference to preview the FA Cup third-round tie with Manchester City earlier yesterday.
Indeed, Ferguson offered only the briefest of responses to questions about the reason for Rooney’s below-par performance at Newcastle on Wednesday. “It is not a crime to try too hard,” said Ferguson, when asked whether his star player’s desperation to succeed was the issue.
Ferguson also played down suggestions he could prise Frank Lampard from Chelsea this month. However, he did not reject the theory of signing Chelsea’s long-serving midfielder, just the notion of Andre Villas-Boas being willing to do a deal.
He said: “You are not going to tell me Chelsea would sell Frank Lampard to Manchester United in January. Do you really believe that?
“There is no foundation to that. Chelsea are like us. They want to do something. The second half of the season is going to be important to them. If they want to try and win the league they will need to have all their best players.”
After successive defeats to Blackburn and Newcastle, Ferguson is again on the back foot. Three points adrift of City in the Premier League title race, United head to the Etihad Stadium tomorrow looking to avoid suffering a third loss on the trot for the first time since 2001. He does so with a squad badly depleted by injury and convinced the players he could bring in to bolster it are not of the right quality to enhance United long-term.
Yet, despite the pessimism, Ferguson also knows his players carry a history of fighting successfully against the odds. More importantly, the Scot is aware his opponents know it too.
“Manchester City have a strong, experienced squad,” said Ferguson. “It is not unexpected where they are at the moment. But they also know we are right behind them.”
With Chris Smalling still ruled out due to a nasty bout of tonsillitis, Ferguson will rely on the players who failed at Newcastle on Wednesday to re-establish credibility after the 6-1 humiliation when they last faced City, at Old Trafford in October. Not that Ferguson wanted to discuss that miserable day.
“I won’t be mentioning it,” he said. “We have enough experienced players in the squad to cope with a really difficult tie.”
City reached the end of the festive programme three points clear of United and well placed to end the season as champions for the first time since 1968 and their manager Roberto Mancini acknowledges what a boost lifting the FA Cup last season gave everyone at the Etihad Stadium. United were accounted for in a Wembley semi-final before City defeated Stoke to end a trophy drought that extended to 35 years.
“It was really important for the club,” said Mancini. “When you build a new team you have to start to win very quickly. If you get one cup, you can understand if you work hard you can win the championship.”
Unfortunately for Mancini, the inspiration behind those wins against United and Stoke is not available this weekend with Yaya Toure refused permission to delay his departure for African Nations Cup duty with the Ivory Coast.