Comment: Jose Mourinho must accept that Manchester United won't let Wayne Rooney join Chelsea

Champions would rather allow him to become a free agent in two years – and can afford to do just that

Chief Football Correspondent

It was with his old bravado that Jose Mourinho pledged his club would “try to the last day” when he was asked about the pursuit of Wayne Rooney on Sunday but there is a reality dawning at Chelsea that what they hoped would be one of the most exciting signings in even their recent history is not going to happen – in this transfer window at least.

All the signs given to Chelsea – and there are no secrets about how this works – is that if it was down to the player he would be there already. The problem for Rooney is that United’s hierarchy, from the Glazers to executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and manager David Moyes, have no intention of selling Rooney.

In this instance, the usual conventions of contract management do not apply. United are well aware that Rooney is entering the last two years of his contract, a period in which the power swings towards the player as he approaches the end of his deal and free agent status. But for United, the manager, the board and the owners, this is about a lot more than whether Rooney might leave on a free or not two years down the road.

In fact, with the new £50m-a-year Chevrolet deal to begin next season, as well as a new Nike kit deal which could conceivably double in value from the existing contract, for once the Premier League’s biggest corporate behemoth feel that they do not need to consider the balance sheet when it comes to Rooney. United could afford to take the hit of losing Rooney for nothing. What the club believe they cannot afford is the blow in prestige of selling to Chelsea – especially in this period of transition from Sir Alex Ferguson to Moyes.

If it turns out that the player stays for two more seasons and refuses to sign a new deal along the way, the mood at United is that they would rather they let him go for nothing than sell him to Chelsea now. They cite the example of the sale of Fernando Torres in 2011 as the moment that Liverpool fatally diminished their own standing in the transfer market relative to Chelsea, regardless of the world record fee.

Where does this leave Chelsea? They are already considering a short-term fix to their striker issue. They will, in all likelihood, take a striker on a free transfer before the end of the window to address what they see as the imbalance among their attacking options. Samuel Eto’o has been considered and, while not a free agent, he could be an option, given the fire sale at Anzhi Makhachkala.

This is not an easy problem to resolve, especially given that so much has been resting on the success of the Rooney deal. “In this moment every striker has a club,” Mourinho said on Sunday. “Every striker belongs to somebody.”

Jose Mourinho: The Chelsea manager's whole transfer strategy has revolved around Rooney Jose Mourinho: The Chelsea manager's whole transfer strategy has revolved around Rooney (Getty)
The issue at Chelsea is that one of the many reasons Mourinho had targeted Rooney was that he fitted the profile of a striker who can operate when, as Mourinho described it last month, “opponents are compact”. In Torres they have a striker who plays on the shoulder of the last defender and, in Mourinho’s words this summer, “when you have to play him in small spaces I think he will have a little bit more difficulty”.

The plan was always that either Torres or Demba Ba would be sold in the event of a deal for Rooney being successful, leaving Chelsea with a manageable three strikers, including Romelu Lukaku, in a formation that only accommodates one at a time.

Sunday’s 2-0 win over Hull demonstrated the quality that Mourinho has at his disposal in his three creative players behind the main striker, and this on an occasion when Juan Mata, player of the year for the two previous seasons, was only on the bench.

Kevin De Bruyne, who played in the central and right-sided positions on Sunday, said: “The manager has confidence in the group; he said he has a squad of 24 people and he believes in everybody, that everybody can start. OK, there are a lot of good players, playing at a high level. As a team we will grow with this; we have to know each other better and better.”

Mourinho’s plan for the summer has always revolved around signing Rooney and without him not all the components he hoped for are in place. Yet it would appear that the short-term fix Chelsea have in mind means they are prepared to wait a little longer for their first-choice target.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
science
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
tv
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders were pictured embracing in 2012
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried