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.

News
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
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

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam