José Mourinho has challenged Wayne Rooney to go public if he still wants to leave Manchester United after admitting for the first time that he expects the striker will decide to stay at Old Trafford.
Mourinho said he would give Rooney until Wednesday at the latest to make his intentions clear or Chelsea would abandon their pursuit of the player and turn instead to another target, with Samuel Eto'o lined up as his next choice.
"The person that started the story has to finish the story," he said after Chelsea's goalless stalemate at Old Trafford. "A club like us, a manager like me, the people that work in the club with me… we are not silly to try to get a player from a big club that doesn't sell what they don't want to sell.
"We are not silly to try something if somebody didn't start it. So I think it is time for the good of everyone to finish the story. For one side, for the other side."
Asked to clarify whether he would like Rooney to state publicly if he wanted to quit United, Mourinho replied: "Yes, I would like. We are going to close another player if he is not coming.
"It depends on this [Rooney's decision]. It depends on his reaction and his feelings. If now he doesn't want to leave, we are out of the thing. But we need to know. We need to know what is happening."
Mourinho said he would wait "24 hours, 48 hours". Pushed on why he had said Rooney had started the transfer saga, he made it clear that Chelsea had been encouraged to pursue the player. "I know because I know." The information, he said, had been passed to Chelsea because "he told somebody who is very important in his career".
United's position is unchanged, meaning any Chelsea bid will be rejected out of hand, even if Rooney hands in a transfer request. Mourinho has been made aware of that – hence the negotiations with Anzhi Makhachkala's Eto'o – and Chelsea's manager believes Rooney may want to stay at Old Trafford anyway after getting a hero's reception from the home crowd.
"I think this club [United] must be a very special club," he said. "In every other club in the world, when a player wants to leave, they don't support him and give him a hard time.
"But they [United fans] have supported him all the way, so I think this must be a very special club, with special fans. It was good, it was nice, it was very English. I think probably now, he decides that he wants to stay. If he makes that decision, we will be the first to respect that."
Informed of those comments, United's manager, David Moyes, said the question of Rooney being sold was irrelevant, given his club's position. "He [Mourinho] has one thing right – it is a special club. We have said from day one [that he's not for sale]. You keep asking me and it is difficult but the answer is the same as day one."
Moyes added: "I was very pleased with his performance and I was very pleased with the reaction from the crowd. I expected it. I don't know how many times I have to say it but he's been great in training. I think anyone looking at him might see a leaner-looking Wayne.
"I said to him: 'I might play you for only 60 or 70 minutes, see how you go.'
"But no, he tracked back, he tackled, he chased when we needed it. I think Wayne has a positive mind at the moment. I don't think it needs to change.
"His performance tonight said enough [rather than a public statement]. He closed two or three people down in the corner and the crowd recognised the work he did. He nearly scored with an overhead kick late on, so I think his actions tonight showed what he thought."
Asked whether that was the matter finished, United's manager replied: "Do you think I need to answer that?"
How did Manchester United fans react to Wayne Rooney's performance against Chelsea?
No player was under the spotlight more at Old Trafford than Wayne Rooney, and the United player certainly put on a show.
Rooney had been scrutinised all summer long ever since Sir Alex Ferguson said he had asked to leave the club before he announced his retirement.
New manager David Moyes has refused to sell him, despite the efforts of Jose Mourinho to bring him to Chelsea, who have seen two bids rejected for the striker.
After injuries delayed his pre-season, the game was Rooney's first start of the campaign.
We have taken a look at it from a statistical perspective, as well as what fans had to say on Twitter about his display...
- Manchester United had three shots on target; and all three came via Wayne Rooney.
- Rooney had four efforts in total, one from inside the penalty area which was off target, with the three on target all from outside the box.
- He touched the ball 70 times, almost twice as many times as Van Persie (37).
- Rooney's pass completion rate of 75 per cent was the second lowest in the United line-up, with Van Persie's 72 per cent.
- The player Rooney passed to more than any other player was Tom Cleverley, eight times.
- He was more wasteful in the final third, misplacing nine passes from 25 attempts, compared to four misplaced passes in the centre of the pitch from 28 attempts.
And what did fans make of his industrious display? Here's a selection of comments...
Whatever you do Moyes keep Rooney #MUFC
— Nathan Jones (@Jones7knot) August 26, 2013
He is greedy. He is from Liverpool. But he knows how to play FOOTBALL!!! #ROONEY #MUFC
— Rakan AlHaqbani (@TheRakan) August 26, 2013
Only my opinion but as well as Rooney played tonight still don't feel Rooney and RVP together works for the good of the team #mufc
— Mickey Hainsworth (@MickeyH7) August 26, 2013
Rooney was class tonight. Think we should have got a result though #MUFC
— Alex Rowland (@AlexRolo) August 26, 2013
Fantastic performance from Rooney tonight, and the United fans did themselves proud by supporting him. Still a United player. #mufc
— Busby's Boys (@BusbysBoys) August 26, 2013
Man utd shouldn't be selling rooney after that performance!! #MUFC
— allrounder 92 (@allrounder_92) August 26, 2013
It was a great game but the result is deceiving! We should have got a win out of it! Rooney was just outstanding! What a player! #MUFC