Wayne Rooney’s future will ultimately come down to a tussle for power between Premier League title rivals Chelsea and Manchester United, after Jose Mourinho revealed he will put the transfer on the back burner until after Monday’s giant collision between the two clubs.
Mourinho addressed the situation following Chelsea’s 2-1 victory over Aston Villa on Wednesday, which sent the Blues to the top of the table ahead of their trip to Old Trafford. Neil Moxley of the Daily Mail provides Mourinho's update:
I don’t want Chelsea to do it before we go there and everybody in the club in the board they agree with me. There is time to do things.
We did it before and we will do later but what I think with this period where we are going to be quiet and just be thinking just about that game.
Mourinho’s latest comments reveal two key things: Chelsea will definitely make another bid for the Manchester United star, but Rooney's signature is very much secondary to their focus on winning this season’s Premier League title.
Initial reports had claimed Chelsea’s next—and potentially final—approach for the England international would be in the region of £40 million. However, David Maddock of the Daily Mirror reports a figure somewhat lower than that at the £30 million mark.
More integral to the deal will be the fight for authority between both clubs, neither of which will want to give the other a psychological edge at the conclusion of the transfer deadline.
Mourinho’s decision to delay Chelsea’s next approach for Rooney is less a gesture of goodwill to the champions ahead of an important game, but more an attempt to send out a message that his club are controlling the timescale of negotiations.
By targeting one of the biggest assets of their main title rivals, Chelsea are at risk of exiting the transfer window surrounded by an air of defeat if United prevent them landing their top summer target.
For David Moyes, United simply cannot be seen to be losing such a world-class talent to a rival unless it is on their own terms. Maddock’s report in the Daily Mirror addresses that exact issue, highlighting Moyes’ intention only to release Rooney if a suitable replacement is signed.
Moyes knows he can’t allow one of his biggest stars to leave before he has a marquee signing lined up to appease the fans and offer a serious declaration of intent.
The problem though, is two-fold. The Scot has failed in a succession of bids to get new signings in, the latest becoming an embarrassment when Everton called the slightly bizarre £28 million double offer for Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini 'derisory and an insult'.
Moyes is preparing another, improved bid for the pair, but he also wants an attacking midfielder who can play in the role he planned for Rooney—behind Robin van Persie.
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In a summer that has seen clubs regain some of the power over their players—with Gareth Bale at the mercy of Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy, and Luis Suarez forced to stay at Liverpool—Rooney finds himself in a similar position at United.
If the champions can create the right message with his sale, which means landing a big-name replacement, Moyes will likely sanction the transfer.
But for now, Mourinho is fighting just as hard for control of Chelsea's destiny. He has taken the lead by setting his own timeline ahead of Monday’s showdown between the two clubs, leaving Rooney with a nervy countdown to the Sept. 2 deadline.