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The clouds gathering over Manchester United have little to do with the city's stereotyped image.
These are dark days for the Old Trafford club after they crashed out of the FA Cup in a home defeat by Swansea last weekend before succumbing to a 2-1 reverse at Sunderland in the Capital One Cup semi-final first leg on Tuesday.
United manager David Moyes has seen his hopes of a second-half push for success begin to unravel on the back of three successive defeats before Saturday's Premier League visit by Swansea.
However, after the loss at the Stadium of Light, Moyes and his team were again in the media spotlight when Martin Blackburn of The Sun (subscription required) reported a potential pay cut for the Old Trafford players if they fail to qualify for next season's Champions League.
Further down the article, though, Blackburn reveals how club insiders fear the deduction could cost them the services of Wayne Rooney:
Club insiders fear the get-tough policy could persuade Wayne Rooney to quit Old Trafford.
The England striker has just 18 months left on his contract and talks are due to start soon on a new deal.
But it is highly unlikely he would accept a pay-cut clause, especially as the Red Devils already look likely to miss out on the top four — and a precious Champions League place.
Rooney has been one of precious few highlights for United supporters this season after he was openly courted by Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho in the summer, as BBC Sport reported at the time.
The Stamford Bridge boss remained noncommittal on the subject of a renewed bid for the United striker on Friday, as the London Evening Standard (among others) reported.
The salary-reduction policy has been in place for three years at Old Trafford after being supported by former manager Sir Alex Ferguson and ex-chief executive David Gill, claims The Sun report.
Rooney has 18 months left on his current United deal and was due to begin negotiations in the near future, according to Blackburn.
The report also states that not all players are subject to the pay-cut policy, but Rooney is unlikely to accept that as part of any new deal.
And few would argue that the former Everton forward has not done his bit to help Moyes and the team in a difficult campaign so far.
The 28-year-old has scored 11 times this season for United and provided 12 assists (per WhoScored.com) so far.
They are impressive numbers and are a sure-fire indication that the England international is still at a peak in his career.
In fact, it is now arguable that Rooney could ask for the moon in his new deal, and United chief executive Ed Woodward would have to contact NASA.
These are, indeed, worrying times at United, but a sliver of hope over Rooney would be a successful second half to the campaign.
Pay-cut clauses or not, the striker still craves success. If United do not improve their form before the end of the season, who would blame Rooney for looking elsewhere?
Believability Meter: Medium-High
Rooney has been United's best player this season, but the poor results of the team are undermining his work.
While United and Moyes struggle to find a winning formula, Rooney is bound to question where the club is going, just as he did in 2010.
The player had 18 months left on his contract at that time, ironically the same length of time remaining on his current deal.
News of possible pay cuts as a result of missing out on the Champions League will only hamper Moyes' hopes of bringing in top-class transfers next summer.
It is likely to cost him Rooney as well.