Manchester United's Wayne Rooney (Photo: Reuters)
Nothing has ever been quite the same in Wayne Rooney's world since the day in October 2010 when Alex Ferguson told stunned reporters that Manchester United's star player had asked for a transfer.
That little rift was quickly patched up with a bumper pay rise, but almost three years later, according to widespread but unsourced reports in the British media the England striker is now on his way out of Old Trafford.
The Sun newspaper deemed it of such great national importance on Wednesday that it was the main story on its front page with banner headlines screaming: "Rooney: Why I Want Out of Man Utd."
Every paper carried a quote from unnamed "sources" that the pugnacious frontman was "confused and angry" about comments made by new United manager David Moyes about Rooney's future role at the club.
Rooney has two years left of his contract that affords him a reported basic salary of 250,000 pounds ($378,100) a week, and while United are touring the Far East and Australia he is back in England having treatment for a hamstring injury and could miss the start of the new season.
The 27-year-old father-of-two is at a crossroads in his career, with Chelsea a suitor after having a bid turned down.
For so long the key player in Alex Ferguson's plans at Old Trafford, Rooney's importance diminished last season with the arrival of Robin van Persie from Arsenal.
The Dutchman finished as United's top Premier League scorer as they regained the title. His 26 goals compared to Rooney's 12 with Van Persie having 65 shots on target compared to Rooney's 35
What has sparked the latest frenzy is what Moyes said in Bangkok on Tuesday, indicating that Rooney was no longer an automatic selection.
"My thought on Wayne is that if for any reason, we had an injury to Robin, we are going to need him," he told reporters to almost as much astonishment as Ferguson's transfer revelation in 2010.
Moyes' sentiment appeared to contrast what he said when he held his first briefing as United manager earlier this month when he said Rooney was not for sale.
"He is a Manchester United player and will remain a Manchester United player. I have known Wayne since he was 16... and I look forward to working with him" he said on July 5.
The two were originally together at Everton and Moyes gave Rooney his first team debut aged 16 in August 2002. He made his England debut the following year, at the time becoming the youngest England player in history.
Rooney joined United for 27.0 million pounds ($40.83 million)in August 2004 and has since made 402 appearances for the club.
Fourth on their all-time scoring list with 197 goals behind Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and Jack Rowley, Rooney has been part of five title-winning teams, one Champions League winning side and also won two league cups, but those highs have been punctuated by a number of lows.
A real indication of his diminishing value to Ferguson came last season when he was left on the bench for their vital Champions League Round of 16 match against Real Madrid at Old Trafford in March.
Two months later, Rooney was left out of Ferguson's final home league match in charge of United against Swansea City and after the game Ferguson revealed Rooney was "not keen to play" and had "asked for a transfer".
That transfer was not granted three years ago, and although he might well leave now, his future remains unclear.
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