After all we’ve heard and read, it would be interesting to hear your point of view. Let’s start with where it all began and the question of was Wayne injured?
SAF: Yes, he was injured. We sent him for a scan and while he was able to train, he was still carrying traces of his injury. Why he was saying he wasn’t injured, you can only guess yourself. It’s disappointing. When it came to the Sunderland game, I felt I would leave him out and give him a complete break so he could be fit for England. I thought if he went and played for England, at Wembley, we would get his form back. That was my intention, that was my idea, to galvanise him. Take a break from the games, get the training done, get his fitness back. Get rid of the traces of the ankle injury away and play for England. So why he’s come out and said that, I’ve no idea.
Have you fallen out?
SAF: We’ve never had any argument, not a bit. I think you have to understand the mechanics of these situations when people want to leave the club. It’s an easy one to say he’s fallen out with the manager, a very easy one to say. I think there are traces of that too.
We’re now hearing that he doesn’t want to sign a new contract. What is the situation with his contract negotiations?
SAF: That is true. David, in the early part of the summer, had opened talks with his agent. And that was to be continued after the World Cup. I was in the office on August 14 when David told me he’d had a call from his agent saying that Wayne wasn’t going to sign his contract. So then David came across to see me. He said he couldn’t believe it and neither could I. I was dumbfounded, I couldn’t understand it at all because only months before he’d said he was at the biggest club in the world and he wanted to stay for life. We just don’t know what’s changed the boy’s mind. David was shocked, I was shocked.
I had a meeting with the boy and he reiterated what his agent had said. He wanted to go. I said to him, ‘Just remember one thing: respect this club.’ I don’t want any nonsense from you, respect your club. What we’re seeing now in the media is disappointing because we’ve done everything we can for Wayne Rooney, since the minute he’s come to the club. We’ve always been there as a harbour for him. Any time he’s been in trouble, the advice we’ve given him – I’ve even been prepared to give him financial advice, many times. But you do that for your players, not just Wayne Rooney. That’s Manchester United. This is a club which bases all its history and its tradition on the loyalty and trust between managers and players and the club. That goes back to the days of Sir Matt. That’s what it’s founded on. Wayne’s been a beneficiary of this help, just as Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and all the players have been. That’s what we’re there for.
There’s been no falling out. That’s why we need to clarify the situation now for our fans. Because what we saw on Saturday was unacceptable. When we were at 2-2 and the fans were chanting for Wayne Rooney, it put pressure on the players and it didn’t do any good for the team. So we’ve got to clarify the situation and try to do it right. There’s no [specific] offer on the table for Wayne [at the moment] because they’re not prepared to listen to an offer. But there’s always an offer there for Manchester United to negotiate with a player. That’s still there.
We know what Wayne can do as a player, so are you personally disappointed at the moment?
SAF: Yes, I’m disappointed, very disappointed, I can’t believe it. When you manage Manchester United, there is always something you have to deal with. We’ve had to deal with these situations over the years. There is a disappointment a lot of the time when you have to deal with modern-day players. It’s not as easy as it was many, many years ago when you were negotiating a contract because then the player had to depend and trust on the manager he worked for. And as a manager, you had more contact with the parents then as well. Yesterday I said to Edwin who made that mistake on Saturday, ‘Well, how are you feeling?’ He said the first phone call he’d received was from his father. I said, ‘Well listen to him, he’s the one you should listen to.’ But that’s gone now. We’re dealing with agents who live in the pockets of players. We live in a different world now and we have to deal with it in a different way. It’s a pity but it’s there and we have to deal with it.
Is the door still open if Wayne changes his mind?
SAF: Of course. David’s prepared to offer the best terms possible for any player in the country. We realise and recognise the quality of the player, that’s why negotiations were started early summer, two years before his contract was up, to extend that contract. And also extend at the behest of the player itself. He said he wanted to stay for life. We were honouring that request from Wayne to stay at the club, at the club he loved. He said the best thing he’d ever done was to sign for Manchester United. So David was prepared, with the discussions with our owners, to offer Wayne the best contract that anyone could have in the country.
There you have it. Rooney wants to leave Manchester United, and has wanted to do so since the World Cup. My understanding of the timing of the leak (instigated by his agent) is most likely because they have had tangible offers from other clubs for a move, and it’s something he wants to pursue. Where to? Manchester City seems most likely given the stories, but it could just as easily be Chelsea.